The Klout Story – Part One – Are You reading Between the LInes?
I recently read the post “Does Klout Matter?” In my option, Klout doesn’t and shouldn't matter. Not at least until the executive team at Klout answer some basic questions and begin to institute some transparency with and for their users. But to many members of online and offline communities, Klout matters because they simply believe it increases the power of their influence.
Klout – The Standard of influence
Klout self proclaims themselves as “The Standard of Influence”. There are many definitions of a 'standard'. Very generally, a standard might simply be defined as 'a set of rules for ensuring quality'. But what is the quality standard that Klout provides to us, and how accurate is it? By their own statements, Klout is not accurate. How can they call themselves the standard of influence when they acknowledge on a daily bases that their data is not accurate?
Lets look at influence as well. According to the dictionary influence is defined as:
“ the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command”.
I was recently in a group tweet chat with Ms. Megan Berry as the guest. Megan is marketing manager and privacy officer at Klout. I asked Megan if there was any study available that would support their findings that Klout measure influence. She answered that no studies where ever made.
To be the “Standard of Influence”, Klout should have to provide official documentation to support this claim. Just like the standards certified by the Institute of Science and Technology, and other official gatekeepers for various prestigious and recognized entities, Klout should also be fully vetted before they are allowed to make as well as use such a claim. Until then, what Klout does is simply measure our online movements, reactions and actions as raw data.
Klout & Privacy Issue
There are at least three major concerns in regard to how Klout handles our privacy. In my opinion, Klout breaches everyone’s privacy on daily basis, even if you’re not registered with Klout. When registering with Klout, you simply authorize Twitter or Facebook to connect to your own Klout account. Klout then syncs the data and calculates your Klout score. Here are the three main areas of privacy concern:
1. When connecting your Klout profile to Twitter, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Twitter. But did you know that when you sign up for a Twitter account you are, by default, agreeing to Klout publishing a profile on your behalf? No where when signing up for Twitter does Twitter’s TOS say you agree to the actions of Klout. The same applies to Facebook.
2. When you do officially register for Klout, you only agree that Klout can read your Twitter timeline, and see who you follow. But whether or not you register, you never give them the rights to publish your full Twitter profile information, including your full name, location, picture, set up Klout label nor either publish your profile across the web.
3. But even if you’re not registered, Klout uses your information to create a profile for you whether you know it, or agree to it, or not. It includes all your Twitter profile information, picture, influence topics, and who you influence, and they expose this to entire world completely without your permission. There are no terms of service or agreements to check, it is just done.
While you may consider your Twitter or Facebook accounts separate from your employer, for example, Klout considers them fair game to display to the entire world without your permission. Furthermore, Klout touts your Klout score as something that employers should be using to gauge your job worthiness. How would you feel if a prospective employer found your Klout score that you didn’t even know you had? What if your terms of influence weren’t what you wanted a prospective employer to discover? Worse, what if a prospective or current employer made decisions about you based partially or wholly on a Klout score you weren’t even aware existed?
Klout and Twitter both need to better define their registration processes and privacy issues. Users need to know exactly the terms of service across both platforms since they’re automatically linked whether we realize it or not. We need to know what we’re really consenting to when agreeing to their terms of service.
What is fascinating to me that my privacy on Facebook is set to high protection and my profile can’t be found in public search, but yet I can be seen on Klout with no advent of modifying that information. Additionally, Klout announced that nearly 2000 companies were accessing the Klout data base on daily bases in search of influential people across the web, but in the Terms of Service published on Klout, there is no information or clause that we agree that our data can be shared with 3rd party vendors of Klout.
“Welcome to Klout. By accessing the Klout website ("Site") or using the services offered by Klout ("Services") you agree and acknowledge to be bound by these Terms of Service ("Terms"). If you do not agree to these Terms, please do not access the Site or use the Services. Klout reserves the right to change these Terms at any time. We recommend that you periodically check this Site for changes.”
This is the first Term that we must agree to. The main issue, as I stated above, is that the Klout Terms of Service are not available during the registration. There is no check box or confirmation binding me to the Terms of Service. Klout should ask users to agree to their Terms and Service directly during the registration process.
Now if you take a close look at the section of TOS above, you will see that entire paragraph talks about posting, sharing, uploading and so on, on the site of Service, which in this case is Klout. But Klout is not a platform that we can post, share or upload any content to. What they need to make very clear here is that the content you post on Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else they decide to pull from, and either with or without your permission, is the content they are warning you about. Again, this TOS extends to those with unregistered or unclaimed profiles on Klout, too. This is the same ‘employer concern’ I was speaking of earlier.
There are many more of Klouts Terms of Service that don't make sense either. The link below will take you to current their TOS and you can read it for yourself. I’d recommend saving a copy due to their ability to change their terms on the fly.
Klout Terms of Service – Klout TOS on September 19 2011
Additionally, it’s my opinion that Klout may be pitting the 2000 companies accessing our data in a possible legal battle against us. This represents thousands of Twitter users worldwide, potentially every single Twitter user out there, due to their unauthorized access of our information published through the Klout website.
I sincerely hope that all 2000 companies who share their API and access our data are aware of the magnitude of the potential privacy breach and that Twitter and other legal entities will take a closer look at the privacy concerns and what appear to be breaches in the Klout system.
To be continued…