Having Klout is getting a little creepy

If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen something along the lines of, “Hey, I got a really cool promotional item for free because I’m on Klout. You can get one too by clicking some link here” message at one point or another. First, I’m sorry. I’m really not that much of a self-important douche – maybe a little broke, but that’s it. Second, the folks at Klout are taking a lot of fire for some of their less than cool appropriate ethical practices regarding your privacy and that of your friends and family.

Klout’s pr problems stem from the way they have begun aggregating users’ data to create a trending history of the topics they most often discuss with their niche group of friends/associates/followers. This data is collected and packaged into a very neat and clean way for advertisers to digest and in return they offer “perks” that would most appeal to targeted individuals. It is a marketer’s wet dream to have all this data available in one very neat package. After all, the internet is quite large and still something of an anomaly to advertisers and companies.

Though you may be thinking, “I’m not signed up with Klout so I have nothing to worry about,” you are very wrong in your understanding of the way Klout works. You see, Klout takes information that you’ve already made public – your twitter feed. When you agree to the Terms of Service and set up a Public account, you’ve already made the deal that pictures of your latest meal, or that little indiscretion with a porn star, are totally searchable, retweetable, or otherwise, well, public. Klout takes on the task of combing through all that noise and creating profiles about what you’re most “influential” about (see: what topics you talk most about).

No harm, no foul, until you start charting the activities of minors on Klout. For those that may not know, it is considered highly unethical to directly target, track, or otherwise market directly to minors. The internet is blurring many lines in this respect; and much to the chagrin of parents, Klout has been keeping Klout scores/profiles on minors without prior consent needed. That’s a big no-no in the world of online privacy.

One of the problems with Klout is, as they put it, “everyone has a Klout score.” This would be great if everyone meant everyone signed up for/registered with Klout, instead “everyone”  is a bit too literal. “Everyone” means everyone. Worse yet, Klout is not just limited to your twitter posts, but can also be linked to your Facebook, Google Plus, Linked In, FourSquare and more. That’s a lot of data to mine and a lot of combined users that may not ever realize that they’re being tracked.

Klout has very quickly grown as an industry leader; advertisers love the deep detailed reports they can provide for companies and getting the most clicks for your buck and users like getting stuff for “free.”  That said Klout needs to address these issues before they become toxic because of their reputation and overly lax privacy policies. Sure, it’s not quite certain if Klout has broken any laws per se, but they should do the right thing and remove any minors’ information or at the very least make it easier for people who’d like to opt out of their social tracking.

Source: The Real Time Report

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