Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Can Social Media Reveal Your 'Trustworthiness'?

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 28, 2012

As more and more services focus on the arbitrage of consumer-to-consumer transactions and rentals, the problem of trusting a stranger becomes a significant drag on success.

Airbnb, the rent-out-your-home service had a very bad and very public problem last year when a renter trashed and robbed a home.

Whit.li. an API designed for collaborative applications, is addressing this problem with its API, which looks at a person's social media activity and determines a trust score.

Jack Holt, founder of Whit.li writes:

The things you tell the world (city, age, etc.) and those you do not--specifically, your choice of words in your status updates or reviews.

You could call it the, "dependability" or, "reliability" score.

... we track your use of ingestion and perception words, which allows us to divine a particle of your personality and attitude. Combined with other factors we calculate like lifestage, class, income and more, we can paint a pretty good picture of who you really are.

We have a psychologist on retainer who has pointed us to research and, with our own testing, has validated the correlations we use. But we are early, so the algos will surely improve greatly as we track their effectiveness in apps.

You can test it against your Facebook activity.

Foremski's Take:

It's a reasonable approach to use social media activity to gauge 'trust.' However, only a tiny number of people are active in social media compared with the large number of people engaging in consumer-to-consumer services.

And will the headlines of articles that people share be counted and the wording used against them?

People who trashed and robbed peoples' homes won't be found through their social media trails. There's little protection to be gained from that type of behavior using this approach.

Also, Whit.li sort of sounds like "white lie," which is not encouraging when it come to matters of trust.

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