Interesting news from the South by Southwest festival of film, music and technology in Texas last week – SXSW to those in the know, I’m told. This is a globally renowned get together showcasing the latest advancements in technology, attracting some of the electronic industry’s leading figures to discuss where we are and where we are, or should be going, in the future in terms of development. So it is quite telling that a few words spoken by Google Vice president Marisa Mayer among all this excitement have still managed to cause a bit of a stir.
Ms Mayer told the gathering that credit card companies can predict, with 98% accuracy, that a couple is going to divorce two years before it comes to pass. She mentioned this almost in passing while illustrating a point that there is already an incredible amount that digital information can tell about a person, information that Google currently does not exploit. Bless them.
I do find this whole Big Brother issue quite scary though, don’t you? If electronically captured information about us, such as our spending habits, can help people predict future behaviour patterns, it does make you ask what’s next? And why don’t they share this information with us? It could be incredibly valuable/helpful to us. Forget paying to get a credit rating, a lot of people would pay to get a marriage health rating. Mind you, is that a phone call we would want to get from our credit card company? They’re not calling because you’ve exceeded your limit, or because you’ve missed a payment, or because there is unusual spending on your account, but to tell you your relationship is in trouble and time to act now or, within 24 months, you’ll be single!
It is not clear whether these experts look at changes in what is being bought (gym membership, new wardrobe, more nights out, hotel rooms perhaps, or even plastic surgery!) or the volume of the spend (retail therapy or more nights out perhaps suggesting unhappiness at home?). There is also the question of why credit card companies would want to predict whether someone is going to divorce? Is this so they can raise a credit limit at an appropriate time or gauge increased liability risk if a person comes out of a long term stable relationship?
If the statement is correct and this information does exist and is 98% accurate, maybe the credit card companies should share it, as a divorce early warning system.