NEW YORK (MainStreet) — RentalRoost, a new apartment search platform that mines data on Facebook, is disrupting the way people find apartments and optimizing their search.
When Golda Colonge moved from New York City to North Berkeley to attend law school, graduate student housing had sold out.
"I was so nervous, because I was looking at apartments online but landlords weren't responding to my inquiries," Colonge told MainStreet.
After discovering RentalRoost.com, the 28-year-old located an apartment in less than a week.
"RentalRoost helped me find the best neighborhood to live in through the filters on their site that considered my needs," said Colonge, who has since moved into the North Berkeley one bedroom with her boyfriend. "I wanted an apartment within walking distance to school, the BART, AC transit accessible and family-orientated."
Launched publicly four months ago in the San Francisco Bay area, RentalRoost.com is offering its services nationally starting November 1.
"I was surprised that RentalRoost could recommend properties that had high scores for arts and culture, fine dining and public transit just based on my age and demographic data from Facebook," the law school student said.
That means when users log on to RentalRoost in search of an abode in another city or state, their Facebook data are automatically aggregated in search results.
"We score every property for its lifestyle potential and then use Facebook to match rentals like a dating website," said Vikram Raghavan, RentalRoost.com co-founder. "Facebook's Open Graph allows companies like ours to access facebook information with the users' permission. We then use the data to come up with qualitative indicators."
Open Graph API is a set of programming tools that permit third party applications to draw information in and out of Facebook. For example, restaurants.
"If you checked into a Thai restaurant five times last month, then we know you like Thai food and we would highlight 5-star Thai restaurants that are near rental properties in your search area," Raghavan told MainStreet.
But like any other Internet capability, Open Graph is susceptible to misuse.
"Although the extent and legal consequences of such misuse remains to be seen, it is a safe bet that consumer information will be used by third parties in ways that were unintended," said Dr. Wendy Patrick, a stalking prosecutor with the San Diego County District Attorney's Office and author of the book Reading People (Random House, 2008). "Any time you have the capacity to share data across public websites you are vulnerable to people using the information for the wrong reasons."
While 699 million people log onto Facebook daily, which represents a 26% increase from 2012, there are 83 million fake profiles on Facebook, according to CNN.
"Criminals and other social undesirables will have access to more information about you than was previously available," Patrick said. "Thieves may use what they find in an attempt to steal your identity and the more information they have access to, the better.".
To make personalized housing recommendations for homes and apartments in a designated price and size range, RentalRoost gleans data including age, marital status, friends' locations, pet-friendliness, and demographics.
"The potential for users to turn to Facebook to explore shopping, dining or travel ideas based on referrals from their friends can be huge for users and brands," said Phil Rooke, CEO of Spreadshirt, an e-commerce platform. "If the content is welcome and trusted, the result is a win for the Facebook user and the brand."
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet