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Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance & Financial Identity

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Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America
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From Credit World, 1932: The official seal of the National Retail Credit Association

American consumers are used to being part of a vast high-tech credit world that tracks financial identities and creditworthiness using sophisticated algorithms.  The roots of this system reach back to the 19th century, when credit clerks kept detailed handwritten notes and "correspondents" reported on the character of local business owners to try to help lenders determine who was more likely to repay debts.  

In his new book, Creditworthy, Josh Lauer, UNH associate professor of media studies, tells the story of how personal identity became financial identity and how credit management companies with relatively modest ambitions evolved into today's huge consumer data industry, which tracks all manner of personal information, with little oversight.  

GUEST: Josh Lauer, associate professor of media studies at UNH, and author of Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America. 

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Credit Credit World, July 1933
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The credit bureau and its filing cabinets were at the center of local consumer surveillance networks.

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