Airbnb’s Secret Algorithms Plunder Your Social Media

Airbnb uses a secret algorithm to figure out how trustworthy you are, and it mines your social media for sex work, porn, drugs, alcohol, swear words, and more (via Vice).


The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint [PDF] to the FTC, arguing that Airbnb’s algorithm is unfair and deceptive under the FTC Act and Fair Credit Act due to its secretive nature. On its website, Airbnb says that every reservation is “scored for risk” but offers no further explanation.

But the company based its algorithm on a patent, and it gives more insight:

The method of claim 8 wherein a particular identified portion indicates that the person created a false or misleading online profile or provided false or misleading information to a service provider, is involved with drugs or alcohol, is involved with hate websites or organizations, is involved in sex work, perpetrated a crime, is involved in civil litigation, is a known fraudster or scammer, is involved in pornography, has authored online content with negative language, or has interests that indicate negative personality or behavior traits.

What kind of personality traits? The algorithm assigns customers to broad categories like psychopathy, neuroticism, Machiavellianism, badness, goodness, antisocial tendencies, openness, and more. EPIC’s complaint says this isn’t transparent enough and the categories are oversimplified. However, Vice notes that the “FTC taking any action here remains unlikely.”

Further Reading

[Two Key Operations Execs Are Leaving Apple]

[China Says That Plague Inc. Game is Illegal, Gets Removed From App Store]

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