Klout and minors

Two days ago, social influence tool Klout published a blog post on how they had updated their algorithms to answer critics of their service.

From the post:

Today, we’re introducing some of the most significant product updates in Klout’s history. With these updates, we’ve concentrated on helping everyone to gain a clearer, more accurate understanding of how they influence other people through the ideas they share.

As part of the update, Klout promises “increased accuracy”. Which is great, as this is one of the core complaints about the service. They also promise more transparency, more data, real-world influence. And a shiny new site design…

However, one glaring omission from the post is the question of Klout and privacy.

There have been numerous posts written about Klout’s policy of creating profiles without the explicit permission of users, and the fact you have to opt out of the service if you don’t want profiled.

Worse still, though, was the discovery that minors under the age of 18 were being profiled by Klout, from something as innocuous as being connected to their parent on Facebook.

Due to the backlash against this practice from numerous bloggers, Klout CEO Joe Fernandez came out and stated “Klout has no interest in profiling minors”.

So, why does the Klout website have a profile for an 11 year old kid (click to expand)?

Klout Influence Report 11 year old

This is the son of a friend of mine, Jennifer, who brought it to my attention that both her kids were being profiled by Klout. Her son is the 11 year old pictured here, and her daughter is 14 later this year.

Both profiles are clearly there for all to see. Not only that, but her daughter’s profile on Klout shows who she influences. One is her brother, the other is her friend – also 14.

Klout Influence Report 14 year old

Jennifer spoke with both her kids, and neither of them even know what Klout is, never mind that they have a profile on there.

So, despite all the questions about privacy and minors, and despite Klout’s statements that this would be fixed, it’s clear the company is still adding profiles of children that fall under Klout’s own privacy terms.

Klout Privacy Policy

These terms have actually been updated, since it was previously under-18’s that weren’t “allowed” on Klout. Even so, is it really fair for any company to take a kid’s details and parade them on a site where numbers attract advertisers?

And while Klout advises parents to monitor their kids’ online activities, it’s hard to do this when you have to be logged into Klout to see your kids (if you opt out, you get redirected to a Facebook or Twitter sign-in page).

Now, it could be said that the kid shouldn’t be on Twitter (and thus, Klout) in the first place, since he’s under 13 years old. But as we move towards a more online world, kids are going to go online anyway – the best approach for many parents, and one that they’re taking, is to help guide them on the way.

With that in mind, isn’t it about time Klout quit adding profiles on an opt-out basis, and only has people on there who have voluntarily opted in? Maybe then parents wouldn’t have to worry about their kids being taken advantage of in this way.

Heck, there’s already enough online pitfalls to try and keep our kids safe from without a social score to worry about…

  • Update: The 11 year old also has a profile on Klout competitor Kred, despite their Terms of Service stating it’s for 13 years and older – more reasons for the opt-in process to be standard.
  • Update: Following an email from the 11 year old’s mother, Kred has made her kids’ pages on Kred inaccessible.

    Kred and minors
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Danny Brown
Co-author Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing. #1 marketing blog in world as per HubSpot. Husband. Father. Optimist. Pragmatist. Never says no to a good single malt. You can find me on Twitter - Google+ - LinkedIn.

45 comments
Ralph Dopping
Ralph Dopping

Danny, I love this. Like a dog with a bone. It's the same as the Cable Act of 1984 while primarily enacted to avoid monopolization but also to ban opt-out type of services. As the internet and social sharing grows won't services like Klout have the potential to do some serious damage if they can get hold of your personal profiles without your permission? I would think so.

chakib
chakib

this is really some good stuff man, keep it up :D

Keith Davis
Keith Davis

"... isn’t it about time Klout quit adding profiles on an opt-out basis, and only has people on there who have voluntarily opted in?" What could be easier than that?

Warren Wooden
Warren Wooden

Automation is such a powerful online component to almost everything, and it's never been easier for companies (or even individuals for that matter) to mass produce, mass add, mass message, etc. I think you hit the nail on the head Danny when you talk about opting in driving the numbers down to a degree that they are uncomfortable with. It's financially more viable to tick off a small majority of people than it is to incorporate policies and checks/balances that limit the growth of their artificially inflated numbers.

Socialize Me
Socialize Me

You are your children are thus sharing this information publicly on the networks read by Klout. This is not private data being shared, this is stuff that you are posting online!

Annetta Powell
Annetta Powell

Looks like both of them find it very difficult to answer a very "simple question"!

Hajra
Hajra

I recently joined Klout.... darn, right when I was hoping to be the next Klout superstar! ;)

RogierNoort
RogierNoort

The Great Klout Discussion, it is interesting. There is a lot of information available publicly, everybody should be aware of that. All parents should be (very) aware that when a child creates a Twitter account (or you create it for them) that too can be public. Why bash on Klout if someone can just as easily search Twitter or Facebook with similar results. I understand the opt-in reluctance.., but we are talking about public profiles. Also, when friends of friends sign up you can get listed too... it happens, it's the way of the Web (whether you like it or not). Parents and caretakers need to educate themselves, just like in the old days when they knew the save route to school, or that neighbor with a bad temper, or certain TV channels to avoid. Why is it different now. The need to protect the children is still there, it might be amplified and it might be more difficult, but that just means caretakers have to step up their game and adjust to this age. Make no mistake.., privacy is an illusion. And yes, Klout should let us know when we're assimilated into the collective and give us an easy (one-click) way to opt-out, but that is just common courtesy. And yes, Klout, like all the others should put the protection of children front and center. And no, there is no need for an 11 year old to have a public twitter account, sorry, but I just don't see that. If I'm wrong, please let me know.., I'm still trying to wrap my head around this whole debate, after all, it is just my humble opinion.

Ellie K
Ellie K

The problem with online data aggregators and children, be it Kred or Klout, is that they take a ToS violation from a primary source, and scale it up. Now one could say that a parent of an 11-year old or 14-year old, should be fully aware of the implications of their child using Facebook, Twitter etc. I don't think that absolves Kred or Klout of responsibility for data scraping a child's information. This is why: It is a collective responsibility, legally and ethically, to preserve and protect the privacy of children, until age 18. Think of the court system, or news media. In the latter case, information is published about children ONLY with written parental permission. I realize that Klout and Kred might not be able to sort out who is underage and who is not, based on social media profile data. That is all the more reason to use an opt-in model rather than opt-out. I'd consider doing this now, as it will likely safe grief for everyone later on.

AmyVernon
AmyVernon

I remember about 20 years ago, when our cable system gave us the Encore movie channel for free. It was free! Aha, it turned out that if you didn't opt out, you started being charged after a couple of months. This was in very fine print in the contract, nothing that they openly disclosed to you. Went to court and the cable system and Encore had to refund money to subscribers and change from an opt-out to an opt-in system. While this is a different sort of transaction, it's still the same principle. Edit: Yes, this means I'm old.

Andrew Grill
Andrew Grill

Andrew Grill, CEO of Kred here. As the father of a 6 year old girl, I am acutely aware of the issues facing parents and the online world. I don't believe that one company or even an industry like the one Kred or Klout operate in has all the answers - it is much broader than this. We do take privacy extremely seriously and when we are contacted to remove profiles of people, we immediately do so. Kred offers the ability to change privacy settings at http://kred.com/privacy and we will also immediately honor opt-out requests if they are brought to our attention. Regards, Andrew Grill

Mickey Gomez
Mickey Gomez

I've tried to like Klout. I like to think that they are trying to offer a useful service. But ANYTHING that defaults to "opting out" as opposed to "opting in" is questionable in my book.

HowieG
HowieG

They took Facebook's shitty devious slimebag business model and ran with it. Good luck with that. Wait until brands realize as with groupon this shit doesn't work for them.

Dave Van de Walle
Dave Van de Walle

I decided to delete my Klout profile - to "opt-out" - a couple months back, and I haven't paid any attention to the site since. I happen to think the subject of "influence" is rather bogus. Varies - depending on industry, people, platform, etc.

Joey Parsons
Joey Parsons

Hi Danny, We have no interest in understanding the influence of minors. Users and parents have full control over the data we are able to collect to measure their influence. They can control their privacy settings on each individual social network. If you are creating public data, but do not want it measured by Klout, you can opt out by going to the privacy page (http://klout.com/#/edit-settings/optout). We also have a portal to help educate both parents and users about what data Klout and others have access to from social networks and how they can protect themsleves - http://klout.com/#/understand/privacy. As you mention in your blog, these Klout profiles come from the data in public Twitter accounts. You can read Twitter's policy towards minors' setting up profiles here: https://twitter.com/privacy under the heading Our Policy Towards Children. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this. If you want to send me links to these profiles privately I am happy to remove them. Joey Parsons Privacy Operations

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Considering they're already being used when it comes to job applications, mate (and I've seen examples of people refused a job because their Klout score wasn't high enough, despite being the best person qualifications-wise), then they're already starting to damage people...

HowieG
HowieG

I am curious how Klout prevents bots and spam accounts from being included

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Add to that the removal of profiles of those users under 18 years of age - the legal majority age of minors that Klout say they have no interest in - and how much further would the numbers drop..?

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

You missed the opt-in argument completely, didn't you?

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

There are two things that any platform needs to address, Rogier - Klout or otherwise. 1. You mention these are public profiles, and that's correct. But these are public profiles the users choose to create. They want to share updates, etc. Klout, Kred, etc, choose to create profiles and personas based on that, without your explicit permission. In Canada, and many other places, that's illegal. 2. Perhaps there is no reason for an 11 year old to have a social media account. But I'd rather see a parent help a kid through this new world than let them find their own way, perhaps into an online predator. Besides, every major legal country classes minors as people under 18. So why are Klout saying they have no interest in profiling minors when their 13 and over age limit is there?

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Great point, Ellie - and if these companies really don't want to profile minors, stop accessing the feeds of anyone under 18. Then we might take your intentions seriously...

RogierNoort
RogierNoort

Well put Ellie. We sometimes forget that we are in it together. Having said that, Klout and Kred would not work with an opt-in. What if I opt-in and none of my connections do.., they'd have nothing to measure. What it indeed boils down to is indeed this: "It is a collective responsibility, legally and ethically, to preserve and protect the privacy of children, until age 18." When Klout (and all others) use this a primary guide, opt-in would not be a problem.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

I'm curious how the social influence platforms would react if there were several court cases about opt-in/opt-out and privacy in general, Amy. A big part of me feels it'd be akin to your Encore example....

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Hi Andrew, Thanks for jumping in and your reply (and for your team's action in making the profiles of Jennifer's kids inaccessible upon her request). The question that makes most sense - and would clearly avoid anything like this being blamed on the platform - is why aren't you, Klout, etc, opt-in? It's been more than 10 years since Seth Godin wrote Permission Marketing, and yet here we still are, talking about opt-out versus opt-in, permission-based authorization. The cynic in people would say it's because the numbers would drop dramatically, and this put advertisers and investors off. Wouldn't it be a nice way to stave off the cynics, not to mention put the mind of parents and others at ease? Especially when some companies are now using social scoring when it comes to job decisions, etc, regardless of "real-world" expertise?

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Hi Andrew, Thanks for jumping in and your reply (and for your team's action in making the profiles of Jennifer's kids inaccessible upon her request). The question that makes most sense - and would clearly avoid anything like this being blamed on the platform - is why aren't you, Klout, etc, opt-in? It's been more than 10 years since Seth Godin wrote Permission Marketing, and yet here we still are, talking about opt-out versus opt-in, permission-based authorization. The cynic in people would say it's because the numbers would drop dramatically, and this would put advertisers and investors off. Wouldn't it be a nice way to stave off the cynics, not to mention put the mind of parents and others at ease? Especially when some companies are now using social scoring when it comes to job decisions, etc, regardless of "real-world" expertise?

AmyVernon
AmyVernon

But at least with Facebook, you are *initially* opting in. If you don't sign up to Facebook, you don't have an account. You are choosing to be on that platform. Klout? Nope, no choice. You have to tell them you don't wanna be on it.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Addendum If you have no interest in minors, Joey, how about extending the age limit for Klout profiles to 18 - the legal age most governments recognize the switch from minor to adult?

Fernando Fonseca
Fernando Fonseca

"Privacy Operations" is an oxymoron when used along with Klout #imho. Klout is a data scrapper (and please DO NOT USE the "we're just like Google" argument) that attributes a number to users without their knowledge. You open an account on Twitter and immediately you have a Klout profile. Does this make sense? Not at all. Opt-in is the only solution if Klout (and Kred for that matter) want to be seen as companies that really are trying to decode the online influence algorithm instead of being seen as companies that are using public data (and apparently private data) for their own financial gain. In case you don't know that is not social at all :-/

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Hi Joey, As I mentioned to @andrewgrill:disqus in my reply to his comment, why should people have to go through these hoops to be active on social media. If I'm a small business owner whose livelihood depends on being online, yet I don't want to partake in your platform, I shouldn't have to either make my feeds private, or join your service just to delete myself from it. It's simply adding to your numbers while adding to the inconvenience (at the least) of a business owner having to go through your process of removal, when they could be elsewhere doing more important things. Like serving their customers. Again, the simple, common sense question is: if it's not for buffing up numbers for investors and advertisers, why are we even discussing opt-out as a viable business method in 2012, a decade after Permission Marketing came out?

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Hi Joey, As I mentioned to @andrewgrill:disqus in my reply to his comment, why should people have to go through these hoops to be active on social media? If I'm a small business owner whose livelihood depends on being online, yet I don't want to partake in your platform, I shouldn't have to either make my feeds private, or join your service just to delete myself from it. It's simply adding to your numbers while adding to the inconvenience (at the least) of a business owner having to go through your process of removal, when they could be elsewhere doing more important things. Like serving their customers. Again, the simple, common sense question is: if it's not for buffing up numbers for investors and advertisers, why are we even discussing opt-out as a viable business method in 2012, a decade after Permission Marketing came out?

Jennifer Devitt
Jennifer Devitt

Parents of MINORS should NOT have to opt-out! Just because they have permission to be on a social network does not give you the right to create a profile for them! The kids DID NOT set up these profiles, you did! You need to switch to a opt-in to avoid this! These kids were not even aware they were on Klout or have a clue what it is!

AmyVernon
AmyVernon

I'd imagine. No one wants to do it, though, because the Encore case was brought about because there were deep pockets behind it and lawyers saw a payday. Until any of these sites have real money behind them or a lawyer willing to take a stand on the issue is ready to move forward, that ain't gonna happen. (Yes, I'm a cynic.)

HowieG
HowieG

I stand corrected @AmyVernon:disqus you are correct. What amazes me is how many people we know have opted into the Klout app on facebook And btw there are many other networks that do this. Many business owners find they have a listing on Yelp! that they never signed up for. And wasn't back in the days being in the phone book opt out vs opt in?

Carmelo
Carmelo

Hmmm, silence as a reply for the second time. Hopefully they're replying to you in another fashion? Probably not. Disgusting, really.

Jennifer Devitt
Jennifer Devitt

Also the link you provided to "opt-out" requires sign in thru Facebook, thats BS! You shouldnt have to link anything to Klout to get out of something you didnt even sign up for!

AmyVernon
AmyVernon

Excellent point, @howieatskypulsemedia:disqus . But most people did want to be listed in the phone book. Perhaps not initially, though? Hmm. Would be really interesting for someone to do the research on this stuff. lololol

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

No replies anywhere, Carmelo. Hey ho...

Sam Fiorella
Sam Fiorella

Really Joey? Why do you make it so hard for people to opt-out? You make it incredibly easy for us to opt-in. Oh, wait. That's right. We don't opt in - you do that for us whether we want to or not. Businesses like yours grease the road in front of a deep pit and then neglect to provide a ladder to climb back out.

Jennifer Devitt
Jennifer Devitt

Thats great to hear. I didnt receive that email however, I did receive one early telling me to check support.klout.com for answers.

Joey Parsons
Joey Parsons

Hey Jennifer, Our team received your response, removed the profiles, and sent you an e-mail as confirmation. Best regards,Joey ParsonsPrivacy Operations at Klout

Joey Parsons
Joey Parsons

Hey Jennifer, Thanks for the reply -- if you prefer not to log in to Klout to optout we can you do this for you if you contact privacy@klout.com. Best regards, Joey Parsons Privacy Operations at Klout

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