Photo © Kat Caverly
It all started as a game with Twitter stats. How do you measure online “influence”. No one took these things seriously. It was all just fun and social gaming; right?
Well that’s until someone “pokes an eye out” with Klout. Klout is mainstream now. The influence of this “influencer maven” has been documented by the likes of the Wall Street Journal. It’s been heralded that if you want a job in any business that has “social media” as a function, you’d better have a high Klout score.
“Who cares?” you say. It is meaningless.
It never made any sense to me but like with all things digital — and online — I had to play with it. Things started getting strange when Klout started branching out to other networks; Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube… ad nauseum. Social activity did not seem to have an effect on my score, but when I played with +K ironically my score started to drop.
Ok but still it is just a meaningless game, right? With all the noise being made since the engineers at Klout tweaked the algorithm last week, I found myself reading a lot of essays about Klout. It was then I ran across some very disturbing facts.
It is no secret that I am no fan of the way Facebook treats privacy, but there is something decidedly antisocial about the way they have created a back-door into private accounts. You can lock down all of your privacy settings, only post privately and be very careful about who you engage with online. But make a comment to a friend on Facebook who is posting publicly and that is how services like Klout can get in and then as is the case with Klout, they can create an account in your name and assign you with a score.
Sounds creepy doesn’t it? Sounds like it might just be illegal. It is not good enough to tell people that if they don’t want any of this to happen then they must never post anything on the Internet. Everything on the Internet is not necessarily in public, but since I err on the side of caution I never post anything on a site I don’t control that I do not consider a “public performance”.
As in real life, it is all about trust with me. Klout just gave me a few reasons not to trust them. So, the first step I took was to disconnect all of my accounts from Klout. I was disappointed to discover that I could not do that from Klout. I kept getting error messages.
So I went directly to my other accounts and blocked Klout, and Facebook from that data. Allegedly. All too often you find out that although a service said they were not passing data to a 3rd party without your permission, it still happened. And once they get it, they got it.
But I have a prediction. I saw this frenzy before in 1971. Advertisers craved the knowledge about what people wanted; what did people want to buy. They recruited the university psychology departments to help figure this out. As back then, now marketers think they can guess what people want by what they are doing, buying and saying. This turned out to be a fool’s folly because, fundamentally, people are irrational. We do and say and buy things we don’t want all of the time.
So maybe, just maybe, access to all of my data doesn’t really matter. But like always, I am erring on the side of caution. And those I don’t trust I will block them from my data in every way that I can and there are many ways.
photo by Kat Caverly, taken with an iPhone 4S
UPDATE: November 1, 2011 Joe Fernandez emailed me today:
“You can now sign in to Klout and go to the profile settings and there is an option to delete your account. You can think of it as removing a site from the Google index. If you decide you want to return at some point you can just sign in on the front page of Klout and it will create your account for you. It will take about 90 days from that point though for your score to be fully accurate though.”
I went through the process for the three accounts I confirmed had Klout profiles/scores. First I made sure that I disconnected my other social accounts first. It was odd that, although I had blocked access to Klout from all accounts — Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, LinkedIn, G+ and YouTube — it was only G+ and YouTube that was really disconnected.
The profile is deleted immediately and I will report back on how long it takes Klout to stop displaying a score via their Chrome plugin for Twitter.
What do you think about why companies are trying to get a hold on our online data?