Brazilians are mostly unaware of social scoring systems

But many are willing to share private information in exchange for discounts and other benefits, according to a new Kaspersky study.

Brazilians are mostly unaware of how social scoring systems work, but many are happy to provide private details in exchange for all types of benefits, according to research by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.

According to the global survey 'Social credits and security: embracing the world of ratings', 61% of Brazilian consumers do not know (11%) or have never heard of (50%) of social rating systems, which are based on the behavior and influence of users on the Internet and were initially utilized by financial services providers and online retailers but are increasingly seen elsewhere.

The study aimed to understand consumer readiness in terms of social rating practices and noted the adoption of such systems is increasing within governments around the world as part of efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, with the implementation of automated systems to control people's movements, their ability to buy goods, and their access to social services.

Despite those developments, the study has found that Brazilian consumers are mostly unaware of how social scoring operates. Among those who claimed to be familiar with such systems, 39% struggle to understand how they work and how they are implemented. Key areas where respondents seemed to lack understanding are how to find out their social score, how it is calculated, and how that can be corrected in case of unforeseen circumstances.

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In addition, the study found that Brazilians are willing to allow the collection of their personal data, as long as they give something in return. Some 43% of respondents to the Kaspersky study in Brazil would share sensitive private data to ensure better ranking in social rating systems, discounts, or to receive customized services.

"Governments and organizations are getting digitized and we have to seize the benefits that technology provides, but without jeopardizing our security and privacy", said security analyst at Kaspersky Brazil, Thiago Marques.

"That is why the level of access to personal information and the digital lives of these social rating programs needs to be clear and, most importantly, how they will process and protect that data", Marques added. "This is especially critical given the current situation of isolation we live in when people have no other choice but to use online services."

According to the report, Brazilian consumers are even more willing to share their social media profiles in exchange for other benefits, such as protecting their job, finding a better place to live, a place at a good school for their children or getting a visa.

In addition to conceptual difficulties, technical issues also hinder user understanding about social scoring, the report argued, citing factors such as the functioning of the algorithms used in social rating which often use machine learning - according to the report, this makes it difficult to know which choices will be made and renders these systems "almost impossible to trust", especially when it comes to security.

According to Kaspersky's analysis of social rating systems when it comes to security aspects, these programs can be especially vulnerable to artificial manipulation, resulting in consequences such as reduction of score for various purposes. The cybersecurity firm also warns about the emergence of a new type of clandestine market, in which users' scores would be converted into real money and vice versa.

Separate research carried out by The Harris Poll on behalf of IBM suggests that 5 in 10 Brazilian consumers know that their information is always, or often shared with other organizations they are unaware of. Some 81 percent of Brazilians admitted to having lost control in terms of how their data is being used by companies.