3 min read

Twitter and Facebook accused Predictim of violating their policies on user surveillance and privacy, yesterday. Predictim is an online service that gives you an overall risk score for the babysitter by scanning their social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) using language processing algorithms.  

Predictim’s algorithms analyze “billions” of data points dating back to years in a person’s online profile. It then provides an evaluation, within minutes, of a babysitter’s predicted traits, behaviors, and areas of compatibility based on her digital history. It makes use of language-processing algorithms and computer vision to evaluate babysitters’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts for clues and information on their personal life. 

Facebook discovered Predictim’s activities on its platform earlier this month and retracted most of Predictim’s access to users, as first reported by BBC.  Facebook is now considering blocking the firm entirely from its platform after realizing that Predictim was still scraping public Facebook data to power its algorithms. “Scraping people’s information on Facebook is against our terms of service. We will be investigating Predictim for violations of our terms, including to see if they are engaging in scraping,” a Facebook spokeswoman told BBC. 

Twitter, on the other hand, told the BBC that it “recently” decided to block Predictim’s access to its users. Twitter also mentioned how they are strictly against companies making use of its data and APIs for surveillance or background checks. 

Predictim responded to this saying that Twitter and Facebook are already mining their data and “ganged up” on them because there’s no other benefit for them. It also mentioned how they’re just trying to “take advantage of that data to help parents pick a better babysitter and make a little money in the process”.  

Moreover, Drew Harwell, reporter, Washington Post, pointed out that Predictim appears to violate a ban on employers that demand job applicants verify or give access to their personal social media profiles. These demands seem to violate the law in 26 states, in the US, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

However, as per the CEO of Predictim, Sal Parsa, Predictim is “perfectly legal” because the service does not “demand” access to babysitters’ social-media but just requires it for the most complete and accurate results.  

Predictim has already received heavy criticism over the concern that it is not only prone to biases over how an ideal babysitter should behave, look or share (online). But the personality scan results are also inaccurate mostly. This, in turn, leads to the software misunderstanding a person’s personality based on her/his social media use.  However, the firm insists that Predictim is not designed to be used to make hiring decisions.  

“Kids have inside jokes. They’re notoriously sarcastic. Something that could sound like a ‘bad attitude’ to the algorithm could sound to someone else like a political statement or valid criticism”, Jamie Williams, Electronic Frontier Foundation, told BBC.  

For more information, check out the official story by BBC.  

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