Will The Experian API Focus On The People Being Ranked?

February 27, 2017

I was reading about Experian the credit score company "ventures nimbly into the API economy" this week. I'm happy to see any company begin their API journey, especially companies whose important algorithms impact our lives in such a major way. APIs are critical when it comes to shining a light on how algorithms work and don't work.

According to the Experian developer page, "the Experian Connect API provides easy access to embed credit functionality on your websites and mobile apps. Consumer-empowered sharing allows you to create products and services for previously unreachable markets". Sadly I can't see much about the API itself, as you have to fill out a form and request access to see documentation or anything beyond just a basic description.

The Experian Connect API says you get access to credit scores and reports, but most of it sounds like your standard marketing speak. I find API documentation and actually playing with an API provide a much more honest take on what's going on. Their approach reflects what I've seen from other very secretive companies who are used to maintaining tight control over their algorithms, processes, and partnerships. 

Another aspect of the Experian Connect API I noticed as I read was it doesn't focus on solutions for the end-users who is being scored and reported on, it is designed for businesses looking to pull reports on people for a variety of purposes. When you read the story about the Experian API, and the description on the Experian developer page, it is all very business focused--centering on the opportunity for businesses, not the people it scores and ranks. 

Credit scores are one of the OG big data companies, long tracking information on people, and selling access to business and the government. While Experian's venture into the API economy is worth noting, I'm guessing their API journey won't be a very public one. It's just not in their DNA. I wish they would see the value of incentivizing their partners to better serve the humans at the center of the service, and be more transparent about their algorithm(s), but I'm not going to hold my breath. 

Not all APIs will be open by default. All we can do is tell stories that help convince companies to open up their APIs, be more transparent, allowing their algorithms to be more observable by everyone who impacted along the way.

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