Is Klout Using Our Family to Violate Our Privacy?

Klout and privacy

First, apologies to anyone suffering Klout burnout here – but sometimes a topic has more than just a simple viewpoint. Especially when that topic is something like online privacy. And that privacy has (potentially) been broken by Klout.

I was on Facebook today, and my friend Tonia Ries asked about Klout’s ability to make profiles, when users haven’t connected their details with the service. I pointed her to the response from Megan Berry, Klout’s marketing manager, where she says if we don’t want to be tracked, then to make our social feeds private.

Even though I feel having to make your social feeds private to stop any service from accessing it is commercial suicide, especially for a business whose primary custom is online, at least there was an option to stop Klout from grabbing your information.

At least, until Tonia pointed out the example of her son.

He isn’t on Twitter, and he’s not super active on Facebook. He hasn’t given Klout permission to access his account, and he has his Facebook privacy settings at private. Just like Megan advises.

And yet here he is on Klout, with a profile and score of 38. However, that’s not the issue. The bigger issue is this. As you can see from the image (which I’ve blurred to protect his identity), you can clearly see that his Facebook icon is a live one (i.e., not shaded out), which means people can visit his Klout profile and be taken to his very private Facebook profile by clicking the Facebook icon.

Klout Influence Report

So, a private Facebook profile with no access allowed to Klout is now on their system and, worse still, allowing any public visitor to Klout to be taken directly to Tonia’s son’s private Facebook account?

Doesn’t something smell incredibly rotten here?

When looking into the issue more, Tonia mentions that her son commented on her Facebook wall about something. Tonia’s account is public – so does that mean Klout has activated an account for Tonia’s son, based on her being an “influencer” of her own son? All from one single wall post?

Sorry, Klout, but if that’s the case, that’s bullshit, and you’re treading on very slippery ground.

If you’re going to activate accounts for people who have their feeds set to private, and justify it by saying, “But they spoke to someone who has a public account”, that’s crap. That’s like saying, “Well, we’re going to telemarket call your son’s private phone number because we overheard you asking for his new number on your public phone.”

Seriously, Klout?

So, a word of warning to everyone. Your friends and family, who have absolutely no interest in social media, may be getting hawked as an active contributor to the Klout userbase, whether they have a private account or not, simply through their interactions with you.

Something to keep in mind when hooking up your own information to something like Klout….

Updates:
~ Check out Tonia’s own take on the issue in this post at The Realtime Report.
~ Check out Brian Carter’s take on this post over at All Facebook.
~ Marian Heath from Facebook Safety has advised they are investigating Klout to make sure they’re complying with Facebook’s Privacy Terms.
~ Fernando Fonseca has posted instructions on how to be completely removed from Klout legally.
~ Jure Klepic has published a great resource on how to get completely disconnected from Klout.
~ Update: As of November 1st 2011, you can now delete your Klout account

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