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Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far.

Everyone has Klout - and now that includes your whole familyKlout — and influence measurement in general — has always been a controversial topic.  How do you define influence?  How do you measure it?  Isn’t it context-specific?  Much has been written and debated on this topic, and there is much more work to be done on this.

There’s another way in which Klout, specifically has been controversial.  “Everyone has Klout” says the Klout home page.  What that means is that Klout will create a profile for you, whether you’ve opted in to be measured or not.  Once they’ve created a profile for you, there is no way to opt out or deactivate your profile.  Even if you don’t want to be measured, profiled, tracked or seen as endorsing their product.

So far, I’ve felt that this was a gray line.  The way that Klout created most of its profiles was based on your Twitter account — and Twitter is, by its nature, a public platform.  Open a Twitter account, and there are many tools and applications that will be able to access your account and all your posts and meta-data associated with them via the Twitter API.  Still, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that a company that sells its data to marketers, as Klout does, offer a way for people to opt out.

But now things have gone too far.

When I logged into my Klout page this morning, I was very surprised to see that Klout now lists my son as one of the people I influence.  Anyone who is a parent of a young adult will know that nothing is more unlikely.  And, knowing that my son is not on Twitter, and has always been very careful about managing his privacy on the Internet, how did Klout get the information to create a profile on my son???

This is where Facebook and its famously obtuse privacy settings comes into the picture.   Facebook recently made a number of changes to its platform, one of which was to allow users to specify whether their posts were visible just to friends or public (or some combination).   Whatever you used for your last post becomes the default for your next post.  As a result, my Facebook posts are set to be visible to the public.  And when my son recently commented on one of my Facebook posts, so was his comment–and Klout used that comment to find him and create a profile on him.

Search Google for his name + Facebook, and you won’t find his page.  You won’t even find him via Facebook search, unless you have more personal information on him to narrow your search down.  But now you can easily find him via a prominent link from the Klout profile of a relatively public person.

I’m not a legal expert, or a privacy expert, so I have no idea whether laws are being broken here.  And yes, any decent headhunter could find his Facebook profile if they were looking for it.

But the idea that, just by virtue of the fact that he commented on my post, I am now exposing him, a link to his Facebook profile, and the information that Klout is pulling on his social graph — all in a far more public and visible manner than he would ever chose to agree to — is extremely disturbing to me.

Danny Brown has already posted on this topic on his blog.  I really hope we hear from Klout on this issue.  To date, the only recourse you have to protect not only your own privacy, but that of your family’s, according to Klout, is to not share any information publicly.  If there were a way to de-activate my account until this was sorted out, I would.

Meanwhile, I have unlinked my Facebook account, and I suggest you do the same.

UPDATE:  Brian Carter has added a post on this at AllFacebook.

UPDATE:  I just heard from another social media professional that she has found a Klout profile for her son, who is 13 years old.  In other words, Klout is creating profiles and assigning scores to minors.

UPDATE 10/28:  Marian Heath, who manages family safety for Facebook, has advised that Facebook is  investigating this issue.

UPDATE 10/29: Lisa Vaas has written a well-researched article on this issue for Naked Security.

UPDATE 10/31:

  • Klout is no longer linking users created via a Facebook scrape to individual profile pages.  However, the users still show up in the “influence networks” of their Facebook friends, and their scores are displayed on Klout and in applications and browser extensions that pull Klout scores.
  • We’ve uncovered that some users now have duplicate Klout profiles with different Klout scores.

UPDATE 11/1:  As of today, Klout allows users to delete their account.

UPDATE 11/8:  Klout is no longer creating profiles and scores for unregistered Facebook users.

UPDATE 11/14:

343 Responses to “Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far.”

  1. DrPostALot says:

    @tonia_ries Hi!! When u get a chance =) ALICIA @theOnlyYayah TOWNSEND – #Automagic: Official Music Video Teaser

  2. MrShri says:

    @tonia_ries am thinking of quitting klout.

  3. [...] Check out Tonia’s own take on the issue in this post at The Realtime Report. Tweet A Klout Upside the Head A Letter to Joe Fernandez [...]

  4. brightmatrix says:

    @tonia_ries Oh, wow, Tonia … your Klout article is VERY interesting. Talk about unintended consequences. Thanks for writing & sharing.

  5. Tinu says:

    Very interested in seeing Klout’s response to this. I’m fairly allergic to data mining.

  6. DouglasCrets says:

    Probably because Klout links to many other personal profiles other than just Twitter. And also, not sure how this invades your privacy, as much it just alerts you to the fact that all of this information is already on the internet. It’s not like they went digging through your purse to find your ID. That information was publicly available somewhere, and it was up to you to control that, in my opinion. Your questions about privacy in general seem worthy of attention, but your angle here seems a little like a red herring.

    • tonia_ries says:

      @DouglasCrets the issue is that both my son and I manage our privacy – let’s call it “digital boundaries” pretty carefully. Neither of us was aware that commenting on a public post on Facebook would expose his Facebook profile and associated information to an unauthorized third-party application like Klout. He chose to share his comment in a public forum He did not chose to expose his Facebook profile and social graph. He has always been very deliberate about “controlling” what information he shares online – so this is a real violation of trust for him and for me as a parent.

    • DannyBrown says:

      @DouglasCrets There are examples where Klout has still accessed private accounts on Twitter and elsewhere, and used them to build a profile. That’s shady practice in anyone’s book.

  7. fjfonseca says:

    @tonia_ries I am preparing a post regarding this very issue that will guide everyone that wants to permanently delete their Klout account. It involves a Cease and Desist order (that is the only way to do it).

  8. edwardBase22 says:

    MUST READ RT @AnneWeiskopf: Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far? via @Tonia_Ries cc: @Marykayhoal #OccupyKlout #RLTM

  9. MzMeggs says:

    I not only unLINKED my fb account, I deactivated it and DELETED it a month ago – and when Klout rolled out this new algorithm thing… ALLLLLLLLLL my old FB friends are now on my Klout list as people I influence. I haven’t been connected to some of them – in ANY way – in a MONTH. Facebook scares the crap out of me, and I’m not afraid to say it. I loved Klout in the beginning – because let’s be honest here – I had a score that topped out at 63 and they were giving me some pretty amazing free stuff through their Perks program. Now? Now I am seeing them in the exact same light as I see facebook. I will no longer be +King anyone or thanking anyone for their +K. I really and truly just do. not. care. what Klout thinks of me. I want them out of the lives of the 13-yr-old kids in my family who were connected to me through fb. Social media has gone CRAZY! It’s all about the $$$ (I feel absolutely stupid as a 34-year-old woman who never took this into account) and they don’t care about these kinds of issues.

    • tonia_ries says:

      @MzMeggs@briancarter has been watching Facebook pretty carefully – I’m tagging him to give him a heads up on this scenario.

      • MzMeggs says:

        I want to make it clear lest I’ve made myself sound like a loser idiot here who does not understand tech talk… I am a housewife who knows practically nothing about algorithms, privacy laws, etc. I’m just ticked as ticked can be that my young family members are now plastered all over my public Klout profile. I revoked their access to my Twitter account but I’m upset, especially considering the advocacy work I do, that this is going on. I feel so naive! =P

        • tonia_ries says:

          @MzMeggs the way I see it: if you build a product that you want *all consumers* to use — not just digital geeks like me with nothing better to do — you’d better make it really easy for your consumers to understand the product and make choices that affect not only their own privacy, but also their families. You have every right to feel upset – you shouldn’t have to make it your job to learn about this in order to protect your family.

        • MzMeggs says:

          Thanks. That’s how I felt about facebook and that’s why I left them after this last round of privacy muck-ups with them. @tonia_ries

    • jenzings says:

      This makes me really, really happy I never linked my FB account to my Klout…whatever thingy. It didn’t feel right (FB is personal for me Twitter/LinkedIn, etc. are work) and oh boy I think Klout has really stepped over the line here.@MzMeggs

      I’m guessing Klout has about 2 or 3 days max before the FCC and FTC want to know what the heck they are doing creating accounts for minors. Congressional questions, maybe 2 weeks.

  10. apombalivre says:

    @DaveMalby @AnneWeiskopf @Tonia_Ries @Marykayhoal @kehutchinson @brandonebc @RachelAMiller #YouKilledKlout #OccupyKlout #Rockers

  11. greggtilston says:

    @doctorjones interesting point and funny my mom (Fb acct) showed up yesterday but apparently we don’t influence each other any more

  12. tonia_ries says:

    @LuxuryHomeChic thanks for sharing that post!

  13. tonia_ries says:

    @AnneWeiskopf thanks for sharing that post, Anne!

  14. kamichat says:

    @swhitley Not sure about this Shannon. They weren’t grabbing these obscure people before, now my stepmom, aunt and few others are on there.

  15. kamichat says:

    @suzanneskyvara Yes, I am very concerned about this one indeed.

  16. DannyBrown says:

    You know what`s really sad about this, Tonia (and briancarter alludes to it on his post at All Facebook)? That if Klout has its way, we’d all have to stop posting anything in public just to stop them from accessing our information and making themselves look more popular into the bargain.

    That’s a pretty sad day for online life…

  17. amvandenhurk says:

    @cbarger it is all very concerning & Klout should be concerned since laws protecting minors maybe violated. Trying find the exact law now.

  18. mellenarmstrong says:

    @DoctorJones Is that why I suddenly have a zillion invites?

  19. [...] I came across a blog post from Tonia Ries on The Realtime Report. In it she explains that although her son has a fairly locked down Facebook page, because he [...]

  20. tonia_ries says:

    Related: I just found a blog post by karamat in which she points out that when you sign up for Klout, they ask for permission to read your Direct Messages…

  21. loudmouthman says:

    I managed to get my account disabled. It took me a while but they disabled my web account ( i apparently still appear in a plugin ) but the point is they can let you go and drop you out of the page. More over here : . Good luck. I for one would appreciate such services allowing people to opt and drop out of these games.

  22. CAFootwearCo says:

    @jpippert @Klout @tonia_ries RT’d. Ironically, you’re going to end up with a higher Klout score from all these RT’s. Great post.

  23. chantelacevedo says:

    @Tere_Tere @MandersD22 What the what? How do you go about finding if your kids on there???

    • Tere_Tere says:

      @chantelacevedo @MandersD22 Not sure, since I’ve refused to link my accounts to them. But I think you’d be able to see it in your own…

    • Tere_Tere says:

      @chantelacevedo @MandersD22 … seeing as how these moms have noticed on their own profiles that they *influence* their kids.

    • Tere_Tere says:

      @chantelacevedo @MandersD22 But if your kids don’t have profiles, you should be fine. Still, consider the ramifications (and legality) of it

      • MandersD22 says:

        @Tere_Tere @chantelacevedo mine shows friend’s on FB, but not the kids. I guess it depends if kids have profiles. Still, scary.

        • Tere_Tere says:

          @MandersD22 @chantelacevedo I’m very suspicious of @Klout and how much access it has to ppl’s info, incl those who haven’t opted in.

  24. gardencatlady says:

    Privacy Fail:Klout Has Gone Too Far -by Tonia Ries at Realtime Report. v @theresamax @drcharlesmartig @socialmedia2day

  25. gwilliams00 says:

    @socialmedia2day all should retweet-disturbing and needs to be addressed! Yes, when children are EXPOSED, Yes! they HAVE gone too far!!!

  26. jgombita says:

    @marthamuzychka #epicfail? Not a big fan of hyperbole….

    • marthamuzychka says:

      @jgombita I don’t usually indulge in hyperbole but when it comes to privacy, kids, consent or lack thereof, and profiling, I see red.

      • jgombita says:

        @marthamuzychka but point the finger at the organization releasing the information. Blame the F, not the K…..

        • marthamuzychka says:

          @jgombita I blame both. We need to be clear about third party use of info. Just because K can doesn’t mean they should & as for F, sigh.

        • jgombita says:

          @marthamuzychka as I’ve never set up a FB account (primarily because of privacy reasons), I am not concerned re: K #epicfail. #justsayin’

  27. ericbuchegger says:

    @mynameiskate @DoctorJones Another reason to dislike Klout. I almost puked the other day – so many ppl tweeting about lower Klout scores.

  28. Bellaventa says:

    @AureliaCotta I just saw that. Talk about big brother…. @klout

  29. SallyOnTheGo says:

    @ACoffin @socialmedia2day Wow. Thanks for sharing this.

  30. antaldaniel says:

    @DavidKaufer I think #Klout is overwhelned w its problems, recalculating scores, fighting bots, privacy… It may blow apart

  31. zeb says:

    @tonia_ries interesting POV, it’s a fine line they have to tow, I’m not surprised that they are making some mistakes

  32. jspepper says:

    @tonia_ries Thanks – will go check it out. I think this was a major PR misstep, despite new sign ups. cc @armano

  33. marykayhoal says:

    @AnneWeiskopf Wow. Thank you for sharing. I’ll be sure to do the same!

  34. Vitalingus says:

    @lizstrauss @Paisano thanks Liz very helpful my dear

  35. tracetime says:

    @lizstrauss @Paisano Will Klout follow in Nexflix footsteps?

  36. EffervescenceSM says:

    @SweetSoaps @lizstrauss @Paisano very very interesting re @klout

  37. JFlopsu says:

    @McMonnie interesting article but the thing they r doing legal is using public info. I know ppl with a score of 1 w/ ultra private settings

  38. allenmireles says:

    @gacross Glenna, thanks so much for the RT. :)

  39. Wandering_Off says:

    @flutiemcd I never did connect my FB profile to Klout…thought about it, but didn’t want to share that much info w/ them.

  40. tonia_ries says:

    @marykayhoal thanks for tweeting that post, Mary-Kay!

    • marykayhoal says:

      @tonia_ries You’re welcome! Thank you for writing about it. Sounds like a serious breach of privacy if you ask me. #optout #klout

  41. Skitzzo says:

    @SEOAware @briancarter @tonia_ries seems like a tempest in a teapot. If the information is made public by Facebook be mad at them.

    • tonia_ries says:

      @Skitzzo @SEOAware @briancarter Facebook definitely deserves their share of blame in this.

      • SEOAware says:

        @tonia_ries I agree. FB scares me to death. Kind of reminds me of Google in a scary “We know all that you do” way. @briancarter @Skitzzo

  42. Raju says:

    First tell me how these minors are creating profiles on Facebook or Twitter? As a responsible parent, you must first teach them to respect T&C of websites and take them off FB/Twitter

    • KuganKumar says:

      @Raju I think this is an excellent point. Many underage kids are signing up for facebook by being dishonest with their age.

      • MzMeggs says:

        Kids can sign up for facebook at any age because kids will be kids and they lie about their age so they can be cool like their friends, but according to facebook’s terms of service, you only have to be 13 years of age to set up an account. I am a parent, and as much as I’d like to think my children will be responsible online there’s no guarantee of that. I believe Klout should give parents and guardians the ability to remove their children’s info and connections from Klout’s site. Yes, it is up to us to teach our children how to be responsible enough to respect terms and conditions of websites.. but let’s get real here… how many “regular people” out there even have a clue what 99% of the “terms and services” they agree to actually are? Transparency is a big issue with me. I read EVERYTHING before I agree to terms and services because I used to work for a bank and I learned from them to NEVER sign until you read it all… and – yes – I have literally taken DAYS to go through these things to make sure I know what I’m doing with my info and I still get surprised all the time. I’m so ready to totally disconnect from social media… and in a way I’m grateful to Klout and facebook for showing me how ridiculous the illusion of privacy is. @KuganKumar @Raju

      • mculf99 says:

        No one can stop a 13-year old boy from plucking the forbidden fruit that the Pied Piper puts into his reach. The point is that FB downright invites young people to ignore “rules” that virtually nobody takes at their face value. Once you’ve realized how many people have more than one FB identity, using TV show or fairytale characters for fake names, you’ll KNOW that FB will not invest any effort in researching what, and who, is real. And who really is as old as he says.

        So who’s responsible?

      • tonia_ries says:

        @KuganKumar@Raju@MzMeggs @mculf99 it is completely legal for teenagers 13 years and older to have a Facebook account – it is up to the parents to monitor whether their kids are cheating and creating accounts earlier, and to educate their kids about how to use it responsibly. But that does NOT make it right for a 13-year-old to be profiled by Klout. I’m not sure if laws are being broken by either Facebook or Klout, but as a parent I can tell you it is hard enough to teach kids public/private boundaries in a digital age without having them worry about whether their Klout score is as good as their friends’!

        • MzMeggs says:

          Completely agree. @tonia_ries @KuganKumar @Raju @mculf99

        • Raju says:

          @tonia_ries@KuganKumar@MzMeggs@mculf99 Geez… as much as I like to have an opt-out option for any web service available out there, you guys are acting as if klout is some sort of a pr0n website. The truth is, online privacy is a BIG illusion. If you let your kids get on Facebook and hope to save them from the big bad world, you are just being lame.

        • tonia_ries says:

          @Raju@KuganKumar@MzMeggs@mculf99 Look – you’re making a fair point about online privacy being, to some extent, an illusion. But if someone sets their Facebook account to private, it should not result in a public profile being created on another platform. It’s one thing for advertising bots to be tracking our every eye movement — but they don’t share that data in a public profile.

        • MzMeggs says:

          My kids are not on facebook – but really… who’s stopping them? I can only hope they listen and act responsibly if and when they make the decision to go online for social networking. My reasons for caring so much about this have a lot to do with things I just don’t have the time to sit here and outline. The bottom line for me is that I think Klout is being shady about a lot of things. Oh, I wish I had the time… anyway… I see your point. I know I can’t protect my children from everything. But I do believe when someone is pretty much using children (and adults) as “influencers” to tout products and services without permission and without these people having opted in to being sold out to a company… yeah… I don’t like that. I think it’s pretty shady that you can’t opt out of being pimped by what pretty much (at this point) amounts to an online game with magical and secretive algorithms that seem to make little to no sense to a lot of people.@Raju @tonia_ries @KuganKumar @mculf99

        • Raju says:

          @tonia_ries@KuganKumar@MzMeggs@mculf99 I thought I was clear enough when I said “Klout must provide an option for users to opt-out”. So let’s keep that aside as we all agree on that. My issue is with people making a mountain out of a molehill. Your kid commented on your post and showed up on your klout profile. So what? It’s not like Klout is getting the address, phone number or the photo albums of the kids and selling them to pedophiles. All they have is the name and the photo thumbnail. I agree that Facebook must correct this error and make the private profiles inaccessible (in any way) to third parties, but stop hyping up a simple privacy lapse.

        • DannyBrown says:

          @MzMeggs@tonia_ries@KuganKumar@Raju@mculf99 Raju – you were never a teenager and did things you weren’t meant to? Come on… ;-)

          The point is, teens and non-web savvy folks are getting whored by the likes of Klout for money. Which is not cool.

          Let’s look at it another way – how will Klout feel when there’s the first suicide by a depressed teen being bullied by school “friends” over their “pathetically low Klout score”?

          I hope to God that never happens – but we all know the horror stories of teens being bullied online, and this measurement crap is playing right into that.

        • Raju says:

          @DannyBrown@MzMeggs@tonia_ries@KuganKumar@mculf99 Danny, stop being a privacy whore. My point is simple- This is a non-issue and all these articles are just link-baits. If kids are so volatile, parents must keep them off the internet and not just Klout or Facebook

        • sbhsbh says:

          @Raju@DannyBrown@MzMeggs@tonia_ries@KuganKumar@mculf99 So true, this just in, the internet is not private…A profile on Klout, oh my, the fear…seriously a non-story…So I see a name, I see the same name on FB…probably safe to say we are on many sites and places within the internet that we are not aware of…Klout is just the flavor of the day, so it works well here…move on people, nothing to see here…enjoy your weekend

        • tonia_ries says:

          @sbhsbh@Raju Guys – it’s more than a name. It’s a score. Easy to say ‘ignore the score’ but we all know that kids (and many adults) can get very caught up in things like that. Whether we agree or not – appreciate your perspective on this! @DannyBrown @MzMeggs @KuganKumar @mculf99

        • DannyBrown says:

          @Raju@M_M_@tonia_ries@KuganKumar@mculf99 Awesome advice, Raju. Sorry, kids, you can’t have a life because of a platform that plays to people’s egos.

          Yeah, great advice.

  43. nakulshenoy says:

    @GautamGhosh I rest my case :-)

  44. anandanjaria says:

    @madhulikamathur I don’t know why but I never trusted klout scores …

  45. MomMostTraveled says:

    I noticed this too, it suddenly showed all of my FB friends as people I influence, and suggested that I invite them to Klout. I felt really icky about it. Also these are people who are not socialMediaLites. They just use facebook like the average user and have no interest in Twitter and other platforms.

    • tonia_ries says:

      @MomMostTraveled I hear you. There’s just a huge difference between profiling users based on public social nets such as Twitter or even LinkedIn, vs creating profiles based on a platform like Facebook where the vast majority of users are not interested in being public with their information. I still can’t get my dad to join Facebook because he has such strong ideas about protecting his personal information – if this had happened to him he’d be *furious*!

  46. sarahebourne says:

    @cc_chapman Sounds like a Facebook privacy issue more than Klout. Comment inherits setting of post, not your settings

  47. rbeland says:

    @dwaynekilbourne Klout all over my stream lately…wondering if all this bad press is actually good for them?

  48. MirandasTravels says:

    @MomMostTraveled EWWW Klout just made me feel dirty

    • MomMostTraveled says:

      @MirandasTravels me too. i feel like i was a pimp for @Klout. *laying in shower fully clothed* SOAP WON”T MAKE ME CLEAN!

  49. VamboRools says:

    @TechnicLee Going from that blog I would say that both #Klout and #Facebook should be held equally accountable.

  50. Kellyology says:

    @chilihead That article right there is what makes crazy about parents who allow their children my son & daughter’s age on social networks.

  51. venessapaech says:

    @blogbrevity @RealtimeReport Wrong wrong wrong. Again I restate how much I do not care for Klout and its kin.

  52. rjfrasca says:

    @jursarealwom You have one on there. I just looked you up. That’s the whole thing. They create them whether you want them or not.

    • jursarealwom says:

      @rjfrasca yeah, I know- have been trying to avoid Klout, but it looks like they back everyone into a corner-and now with more detail-dicks.

  53. phollows says:

    @DannyBrown Time to boycott Klout? mostly because it’s a stupid service, but between it and Facebook and making private profiles public…

  54. randyzwitch says:

    I noticed this Facebook trend as well, once the Klout re-scoring debacle happened a few days ago. All of the sudden, (real-life) friends who have no public social media profile started showing up people I influence. Even better, many of them had higher Klout scores than I did (someone who intentionally has public accounts). Interesting to realize that by connecting my FB account through Klout, it’s pulling in scores for all these people.

    • tonia_ries says:

      @randyzwitch I noticed that, too: my son has a higher score, for instance, than people I know who are very active on social media. unfortunately, the new system doesn’t appear to be passing the “common sense” test…

  55. danbri says:

    They also had a bug yesterday where they showed the JSON (computer format) representation of a logged in user, instead of a Web page. So when I logged in (‘cos they’d sent me some mail), I saw a profile format. Ugly but not particularly suprising to see that they have created ‘householdIncome’ and ‘race’ fields to describe me in their database.!/danbri/status/129584521740947456

    • tonia_ries says:

      @danbri wow. you’re right – not a surprise but still very creepy. It’s one thing to ‘trust’ a credit card company with years of experience running systems securely with data like that. Much as I love them, I am so not ready to trust any of the social startups w private data like that. @DannyBrown wanted to make sure you saw this.

  56. SmittySmiles says:

    Agreed. RT @DannyBrown
    DannyBrown Danny Brown
    Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far. | The Realtime Report

  57. AskAaronLee says:

    Facebook says I influence my gf… she is not gonna be happy when she finds out what I was influencing her to do all this while…. Looks like i have to unlink my facebook too

  58. RobertPickstone says:

    When an under 18 is about to post something public on Facebook, a pop up box should appear. So simple. Klout should also be opt in. Neither are likely to change unless it gets legal.

  59. ABurgerADay says:

    @AskAaronLee Thank you for RTing this, Aaron! I’m shocked, and now educated. @DannyBrown

  60. TomMoradpour says:

    @lttlewys Yes, I saw that… that’s a bigger can of worms than the score drops!

    • lttlewys says:

      @tommoradpour I haven’t seen a response from K about privacy issues, esp if someone’s FB is totally private. Altho, is that a FB issue or K?

  61. TomMoradpour says:

    @lttlewys (although my POV – it’s naive to think anything is private on #Facebook… and that’s not because of #Klout)

    • lttlewys says:

      @tommoradpour I agree with you on that! If you put it on the internet, it’s no longer private. I do think that you should be able to opt out

  62. beanbagboy says:

    I have for a while been able to look at people’s (fellow Twitter users’) Klout scores, even though they are not actively using Klout. It shows their influence, who they influence, in fact, it shows everything on their profile that you would find on mine despite them not having signed up or granted Klout permission to source their information.

    So how did they get it? Most probably from my profile when I signed up. So the scary thing is, if Klout could access the information of these people, without their consent only because I signed up, then how much of my information is being harvested by other companies that other people have signed up to? And why was I not alerted that I would also be giving up their information? Or is it hidden in a sea of terms and conditions?

    • tonia_ries says:

      @beanbagboy Klout has been automatically creating profiles for anyone with a Twitter account (without giving them a way to opt out). Now they are apparently automatically creating profiles based on Facebook accounts, too.

      • beanbagboy says:

        @tonia_ries wow. Even sneakier than Facebook. I used to laugh at people who were weary of the internet and setting up Social Media accounts. I now envy them…

        • tonia_ries says:

          @beanbagboy I know what you mean — and it makes me sad. Social media should be about hanging with your friends & connecting with new people — not having to worry about all this kind of stuff.

  63. lttlewys says:

    @solete @TomMoradpour The issue appears to be that if you comment on a public profile then K can pull ur info no matter ur settings #usguys

  64. [...] Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far? – Tonia [...]

  65. Cooking_Roffa says:

    @Aelderick yup…. pretty scary don’t you think? #privacy #Reading

  66. Property118 says:

    @AgencyExpress That’s one big can of worms for Klout.

    • AgencyExpress says:

      @Property118 The implementations do not bare thinking about…. the changes they’ve made this week are ridiculous @Klout

  67. DannyBrown says:

    RT @marthavalenta: They did to my 13 y/o @RealtimeReport @Klout is auto-creating profiles for kids as young as 13.

  68. DannyBrown says:

    @marthavalenta @RealtimeReport Even though @Klout’s own Privacy states “Over 18″…

  69. cc_chapman says:

    @Glennengler I don’t think Klout did anything wrong. People opt-in with their networks. I don’t like it & unconnected FB immediately.

    • tonia_ries says:

      @cc_chapman @Glennengler Klout’s own Privacy Policy says they r not targetg kids <18, yet they r creating profiles on them. That’s wrong.

  70. FernandoFonseca says:

    @tonia_ries As promised, I just wrote this post that might interest you and your readers

    ” How to get Klout to delete your profile permanently” that can be found here:

    I have enforced this and my Klout profile no longer exists.

    I hope this post helps all of those that don’t want Klout to exploit their personal data, and privacy, for its own financial gain.

    All of this would not be necessary if Klout would enforce a opt-out feature or make the service opt-in.

    • tonia_ries says:

      @FernandoFonseca thank you for sharing this!

    • tonia_ries says:

      @FernandoFonseca Fernando: I just saw a comment from @CyberlandGal on @DannyBrown ‘s post that might interest you: — even though your Klout profile page is no longer accessible, you are still showing up as an influencer on other people’s pages one example: It seems that once you have Klout you always have Klout…

      • FernandoFonseca says:

        @tonia_ries I am aware of this, thanks to @CyberlandGal and have sent the Cease & Desist order to Klout and to Joe Fernandez’s e-mail.

        Joe replied to me just now “Appreciate your email. Our team is working on discovering all the various places Klout Scores are cached. This is our top priority and should be resolved quickly.”

        On that same e-mail I CC the European Justice Commission that is already aware of this situation and will look into it.

  71. skypilotofhope says:

    @graceishuman Very interesting article on Klout & privacy. I really need to give this some more thought. Thx.

  72. CloudAnd_Me says:

    @JamesFirth online #privacy gets no respect any more. Should we just give in?

    • JamesFirth says:

      @CloudAnd_Me “Should we just give in?” < No, but we can’t fight every advancement. Work out what’s important, then fight that

  73. tonia_ries says:

    @christinemohan thanks for sharing that post!

  74. govekar says:

    #Privacy #Fail: @Klout Has Gone Too Far – via @tonia_ries (thx for discovering this BIG privacy issue) #klout #facebook

  75. [...] Ries has just published an article titled: Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far, which outlines how Klout is indexing social networks and creating/measuring user profiles, even if [...]

  76. HannaRiani says:

    @jeanlucr followback me (๑’⌣’๑)づ♥

  77. Lozlania says:

    @BrentWees You are way too obsessed with Klout…..

  78. Mango1531 says:

    @mrsstrickland me too!

  79. [...] Friday morning, Tonia Ries was dismayed to find, upon logging into her Klout page, that Klout is now listing her son as a person whom she [...]

  80. angelariddering says:

    Alternatief voor Klout? @Wwwijzer Net mail gestuurd om mijn Klout-profiel te verwijderen. Waarom? Hoe?

  81. dream2screen says:

    A MUST READ –> Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far. by @tonia_ries RT @danperezfilms

  82. alli_librarian says:

    @maryinhb Hm, that’s a complex issue. I don’t think you need to apologize for recommending the service though! People just need to be aware.

    • maryinhb says:

      @alli_librarian the more I read about klout the less relevant it becomes to
      me as a book blogger since it ranks me lower than lesser blogs

      • alli_librarian says:

        @maryinhb I try not to get too concerned about my rank… I’m just happy when I get perks! So far, Sharpies, wine, and Moo cards. Love it!

  83. karlabry says:

    @robgokee Wow, not cool of @Klout

  84. ArnoldHugoStolting says:

    You seem very surprised at this type of behavior (technology used) by online companies. Why is it that people today are still so surprised, and still feel that something terribly wrong is done to them, when they find out that something was created, published, posted, shared etc regarding them? Why not stay offline, move to a remote village or live in a cave. Otherwise, deal with the fact that you and your family’s comings and goings are being watched daily, you have no privacy, and good luck complaining about it. No one is listening. You can’t stop this.And just for me to post this comment, an application had to access my Facebook account. It’s not hard to figure out what will happen with my data from here now is it??

    • sbhsbh says:

      @ArnoldHugoStolting Bravo…Somebody that gets it…

      • tonia_ries says:

        @ArnoldHugoStolting to post the comment, you *gave Livefyre explicit permission* to pull data from your Facebook. That is completely different from a third party pulling data *without your permission* and then publishing it. Trust me, I’m not naive, and neither is my son, who is a CS major: I know there are all kinds of fun bots and apps tracking my every move online. The difference is that most of them do not then take that information and use it to publish a personally identifiable public profile. That’s where I draw the line — especially where kids are involved. cc @sbhsbh

        • ArnoldHugoStolting says:


          Not referring to anyone being naive, simply referring to the fact that if someone is online and sets up a profile, then they must face the consequences without being shocked that some company might drop by and scrape their information, and or any person connected to the profile, for their gain. I have a 5 year old daughter so I do understand, (and yes I do have proud daddy / daughter moments type of pics and info on my facebook). And if someone chooses to use that info for their purposes, then even though it’s not right, I am the one who chose to put it all online in the first place. For the most part, that was the whole point of Facebook to begin with? Regarding laws being broken, most people do not bother to read the terms of agreement and the things they actually give permission for a third party application to do. Therefore if you have a bunch of third party applications installed, you might be shocked to find out what you might have agreed to.

        • tonia_ries says:

          @ArnoldHugoStolting@sbhsbh you are right about that – and it’s getting harder and harder to keep up. Look at it another way – you strike me as someone who enjoys spending time online & on social media. Wouldn’t it suck if you ended up doing less of that just to protect your family — when all it would take is for companies like Klout to follow some basic common sense about what’s right and what’s wrong? Personally, I’d rather speak up than shut up & go offline. :-)

        • ArnoldHugoStolting says:


          Yes it would suck if I ended up spending allot of time protecting my family instead of doing other things. These activities used to be reserved only for the rich and famous, whereby due to media exposure etc, everything they did and said ended up in the public domain up for grabs. The internet has now simply made it easier for just about “anyone” to be a target of their information being shared. Even though I don’t find myself a target of having to protect my family, I already end up spending time protecting my business. You see, your intuitions are correct, I do spend a fair amount of time online, however not simply for the purpose of entertainment and browsing social media sites. (today I just happen to have a little more time on my hands :) I run a multimedia company online full time and have been doing so for close to a decade now. (we create and distribute Information Products, Music, Sound Effects, Etc). Being online today, means that we are forced to keep up with social media, the good and the bad. Since we have several community based sites as well, a large part of daily activities does involve protecting the sites from bots and scrapers, and my coders end up answering my “how did they get in”? questions. So yes, I am familiar with the entire concept of people doing things online with our information, whether we like it or not. Even though I have learned that speaking up and trying to change laws might have “some” effect on those companies that are kind enough to back down from their grey area activities, criminals on the other hand, (whether they are aware that they are, or not) have yet to comply and stop stealing, spamming, and to add salt to my injuries, sharing and even ignorantly “reselling” our products and content illegally at times, despite us clearly stating that they have no “permission” to do so, and the law clearly stating that they have no permission to do so. :( Go figure.

  85. [...] The Realtime Report Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  86. eric_andersen says:

    @Ed huh, has nothing to do with the changes to scoring algorithms (which was the big news last week)

  87. eric_andersen says:

    @Ed but this does sound pretty bad – leveraging a Facebook loophole, essentially.

  88. eric_andersen says:

    @Ed clearly they should not be auto-generating profiles based on Facebook. I’d say only Twitter. All other auto-generated should be removed

    • Ed says:

      @eric_andersen I warned them when they bragged about size of their db (for VC’s) months ago, that they were heading for trouble. 13 yrs old?

  89. brianofshope says:

    @priyacmu oh wait. down a little bit; was this tweet the news?

  90. eric_andersen says:

    @priyacmu revoking though doesn’t mean @klout no longer has access to public aspects of a Twitter profile

  91. brianofshope says:

    @priyacmu ah, right. What a debacle. @klout is NOT having a good week.

  92. CyberlandGal says:

    Thanks for writing this post. I think Klout has gone way over the top. After reading Danny Brown’s post, I deleted my Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc. links to Klout via Klout and found all my Facebook friends were still on my Klout profile and accessible via the “Share” button. So then I went to Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc. to delete the connection from their end. Afterwards, Klout’s “Share” button invited me to input my Facebook password (and no longer displayed my Facebook friends) but Klout still displays some of my Facebook friends on my profile page. Clearly, Klout has downloaded all of my Facebook friends’ information onto its servers. I don’t think it should be able to do that, especially if some of them are totally private accounts.

    • tonia_ries says:

      same here – my accounts are disconnected, and I revoked access from my Facebook settings – but those profiles are still showing up on my page. It’s one thing to scrape profiles from a public site like Twitter, it’s an entirely different thing to do so with Facebook.

      • PamMktgNut says:

        @tonia_ries I did the same thing and I still have Facebook profiles showing up to. This is after disconnecting Facebook from both Klout and within Facebook. Why Klout does this happen?

        • tonia_ries says:

          @PamMktgNut Pam what’s strange is that in her comment above, @meganberry seems to imply that Klout has now removed Facebook-generated profiles. Doesn’t make sense if they’re still showing up for you? the ones that were in my “influencer network” seem to be gone — but then again that could be because my network has changed.

  93. UseStealth says:

    @brianofshope Have you tried Stealth yet? A new search engine that lets you search the web anonymously… #privacy

  94. [...] (via Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far – [...]

  95. frogpondsrock says:

    @acatinatree I meant it was broken in your tweet. I had to #gasp copy/paste the link #lazywebuser

  96. frogpondsrock says:

    @acatinatree thanks for the link though. Klout has made a profile for my teenage son. I am seriously unimpressed.

  97. [...] Klout’s behaviours crossing the line relating to privacy and use of personal information as Tonia Ries recounted: [...] When I logged into my Klout page this morning, I was very surprised to see that Klout now [...]

  98. [...] Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far. Klout is creating profiles for people you're connected to on Facebook. People like your mother-in-law, and your kids. Here's the scoop. Source: [...]

  99. thegaryhawkins says:

    I don’t get what all the fuss is about, if you say something in a public forum, it’s public. @StephanieDarkes @PamMktgNut @RealtimeReport

    • StephanieDarkes says:

      @thegaryhawkins @PamMktgNut @RealtimeReport I’m concerned that K! is creating profiles/assigning scores to minors w/o them even logging on

  100. gertvanduinen says:

    @GreenInkStudio For some reason it doesn’t surprise me about Klout’s Privacy Failure.

  101. [...] “Klout has gone too far“ [...]

  102. [...] Last week, Klout began creating new user profiles and scores based on data pulled from Facebook.  This means that, if you have your Facebook account linked to your Klout profile, you will start seeing your Facebook friends and family (including kids as young as 13) appear in your Klout influence network, with Klout scores assigned to them–something which has raised major privacy concerns. [...]

  103. WillyDMZ says:

    If the information is already public and Klout is just repackaging it on its site, its not really a violation of privacy. It may be a violation of Facebook’s terms of service, but its not a violation of individuals’ privacy because the info is already out there. That being said, if Klout wants to be taken seriously in a business context, they probably have to avoid this type of behavior because businesses are allergic to controversy. Klout should act smart here and take the high road because they’ve achieved a dominant position in a pretty big market. The proliferation of companies listed at that do nothing other than social media promotion illustrates how seriously businesses take their social media rankings and their perception of influence and power in a given niche. I think that Klout should apologize and take more steps to allow people to opt out and protect minors’ rights so they can get back to innovating in this field because I think that this is a crucial time period for a lot of social businesses.

    • tonia_ries says:

      @WillyDMZ I couldn’t agree more. I’m not an expert enough to say if legal lines have been crossed. But certainly people are very upset — especially about seeing their kids get profiled — and that is not good for the industry overall. If people start feeling their only option is to spend *less* time online and using social platforms, it would be a very sad day.

  104. t_1_m says:


    Following your invite on twitter I felt like sharing my opinion on this, too: I fully comprehend that you are upset about your son’s data going public, yet I fail to understand why you are blaming platforms like facebook or twitter for that leakage, let me explain why:

    – you VOLUNTARILY gave away your “relationship” to your son on facebook
    – you signed up for klout, authorizing them explicitly to scrape your data
    – you posted something PUBLIC on facebook (certainly AFTER facebook walked you through their very nicely done tutorial when the new publisher was introduced delineating how YOU can make choices about what to share with whom)
    – you disclosed the fact that your son was listed as one of your influencers on klout on your public blog (and then eventually all those other places the story appeared on…) because to klout your son is “just another profile” (and I bet they neither disclosed your relationship status to him as part of their influencer report nor did they post his age or anything else that was outside the public domain because that is not the business model klout had the last time I checked)
    – none of the aforementioned companies (klout, facebook, twitter) violated their terms of services as far as I can see, all they did was scraping PUBLICLY available data
    – of course everyone is reacting to your story and offering to “investigate”: it’s the US of A, who knows if you are unleashing an army of lawyers on them, so money is on the line but will that change something: I doubt it! (and this is not meant to be accusatory in any way, I am just deriving from my own impressions)

    I think what we all need to understand quickly is that with social media EVERYBODY gets the ability to tell the world – and you should not complain if the world is listening: if you want your privacy protected you probably have to take this into your own hands rather than complaining about other companies that are “exploiting” your negligence. If you do want to complain that’s fine but at the same time we should stick with the facts:

    YOUR (“the user” not “Tonia Ries”) decision or negligence to share something public means YOU ARE owning the consequences, too – it’s much like with the car industry: yes, they do make cars these days that go 150 MpH and it doesn’t take much effort to reach that speed other than putting your foot down, but if you loose control over your car and die, is it really the manufacturer that has to be blamed? Or should you have been aware of the fact that moving at this speed might bare a risk?

    Privacy in the online world is dead – search engines and algorithms have gotten way too smart, the contextual intelligence of e.g. facebook is bordering on frightening (I personally still go with “amazing”) and google’s reach and computing power is out of this world, if there is something you want to protect “online” is the last place you might want to put it!

    Or am I missing something? Looking forward to an interesting discussion! :)

    • tonia_ries says:

      @t_1_m Hey Tim – first, thank you for adding such a thoughtful & well-reasoned perspective to the debate. I hope that everyone reads your comment — because many people are not as careful as they should be about managing their digital boundaries online. I have always thought of myself as being pretty savvy, and I certainly spend more time reading & learning about this stuff than the average Facebook user. And, still, I ended up getting unintentionally crossing a boundary I did not want to cross (exposing my son). Like fast cars, this stuff is dangerous if you drive too fast and I was driving fast by allowing my Facebook posts to default to public.

      That said, here’s where I think the lines are being crossed:

      1. Klout is not just scraping data. They are *adding a score.* That’s subtle — but it matters. It’s one thing to have a public profile where you chose what information gets added to it. It’s another to have another company create a profile and then add a number to it based on some mysterious algorithm.

      2. Klout’s own policy says they are not targeting people under 18. (see, “policy toward children”) And yet, since writing this post, I have heard from 3 different people that they are finding their 13-year-old kids with Klout scores. How hard would it be for them to check the birthday when they pull from the Facebook API? Born in 1993 or later? ABORT! This matters – and they will face a lawsuit if they don’t address it. The last thing you need is a bunch of 8th graders bullying the kid with the lowest Klout score.

      3. On Facebook, if you post a picture you later wish you hadn’t, you can remove it from your profile. (yes it still exists in the way-back-machine somewhere, but at least it’s not on your public profile.) Try getting Klout to remove your profile. @DannyBrown has been trying for years.

      +++ I’ve exceeded the character limit!***

      • tonia_ries says:

        @t_1_m … continued / Part 2 of 2

        4. Finally, as far as Facebook is concerned — I guess I now have learned to check whether a post is “public” before deciding how to comment. And maybe if enough problems like this happen, all 700 million users of Facebook will learn that, too. Cause it should always be on the user to know this stuff. Right.

        Here’s the other thing that gets me steamed up about this: people (including Klout) are saying “if you don’t want to be public, don’t be online.” Really?? Does the choice have to be that binary? Aren’t we smart enough to create software that let’s people manage their own content without having to worry about these gotcha situations?

        PS regarding my son, he’s 21, and I checked with him before creating this post. So feel free to check him out all you want now that I’ve “exposed” him. He’s a really smart guy studying math & computer science — maybe he’ll help solve these issues one day. :-)

    • maggielmcg says:

      While it’s been fixed now, I wanted to point out that Klout had created a profile for my son–who is 13. I do not have him in any way marked as my son on Facebook, yet he was listed on my Klout profile as someone I influence, complete with his photo and a link to his Facebook profile. He’s never commented on my Facebook profile, which is not set to public, nor have I ever made any of my Facebook comments public. So the whole theory that this is something users set themselves up for doesn’t fly with me; there never should have been a Klout profile for my son, a 13 year-old, and there never should have been a link to his Facebook profile.Also, if there was nothing wrong with this, why did Klout change it within 24 hours of Tonia publishing this post?

  105. t_1_m says:

    @tonia_ries done! Looking forward to the conversation :)

  106. CarstenJuul says:


  107. ShescrazyBeE says:

    Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far. via @Avinio

  108. [...] news broke of their inclusion of minors and the way they were setting up profiles based on public interaction from otherwise private social [...]

  109. govekar says:

    Thx. Great job ;) I’ll spread the story @tonia_ries updates / new developments are all listed / linked at bottom or post

  110. [...] Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far. | The Realtime Report- Klout adds private Facebook accounts without user’s consent or knowledge #privacy #fail (via @ullemon) [...]

  111. [...] of their new algorithm that tanked everyone’s scores, Tonia Ries discovered a real problem. A profile somehow got created for her son, even though his Facebook settings were private and he never opted-in to Klout. The working theory [...]

  112. meganberry says:

    Klout is about empowering individuals and showcasing their influence. We value our users first and your privacy is very important to us. We have recently strengthened our privacy controls and want to share what options we have available. Specifically:

    *Registered users can choose to opt-out of Klout at any time from our profile settings page

    *We use public data to score users (similar to a search engine), but if at any time a user wishes to opt-out of being scored they can do so from our privacy page

    *We do not have Klout profiles for unregistered Facebook users

    I want to let you know we take feedback like this very seriously and have worked to address it. Thanks for your time.

    Megan Berry

    Marketing Manager, Klout

    • tonia_ries says:

      @meganberry Hi Megan – thanks for stopping by and letting us know about some of the updates you’ve made to the platform. One question I have for you: you say “we do not have Klout profiles for unregistered Facebook users” — does that mean you’ve removed the profiles that were created based on Facebook connections? Thanks for clarifying that.

      • halffiction says:

        @tonia_ries@meganberry Megan, can you clarify “registered users can opt out of Klout?” If I don’t want to be part of Klout, I have to register? I feel like this is a form of digital kidnapping. Only when I pay the ransom of signing up with you (and acknowledging you) do I get set free. What you’re doing may not necessarily be illegal (yet), but it’s certainly up there on the creepiness scale.

        • meganberry says:

          @halffiction@tonia_ries This is similar to how Google and search engines will include your web page when you add it to the internet. If you are creating public data online, then index services will include it. You can make it private or choose to opt out. Thanks!

      • meganberry says:

        yes that is correct

    • DannyBrown says:

      @meganberry Hi Megan,

      Appreciate you stopping by (is joefernandez still travelling?). It’s great to see the opt-out; can you clarify if you will be going full tilt and offering opt-in as the preference (the same as every platform you use to gather your data)?.

      Also, since your Privacy Page mentions your site isn’t meant for under 18 year olds, and that you don’t deliberately add children under 13 years of age to your site, what about the kids in-between?

      Since the demographic of 13-17 year olds make up for 20%+ of Facebook, how are you planning to protect their privacy to comply with your own Privacy Terms?

      Thanks in advance.

      • meganberry says:

        @DannyBrown As I mentioned above to @halffiction this is similar to how Google and search engines will include your web page when you add it to the internet. If you are creating public data online, then index services will include it. You can make it private or choose to opt out.

        As per privacy and minors we are subject to the same rules and guidelines as any other site including Facebook. We definitely want to protect the privacy of minors (and everyone).



        • DannyBrown says:

          @meganberry @halffiction But surely the key difference is the wording you use, Megan: “When *you* add it to the Internet.”

          I choose to make my blog public to Google. I choose to make my tweets public. I choose to be on Facebook. In short, I choose to offer the information to that platform.

          The difference with Klout is that many people are *not* choosing to give you their public information, never mind their private stuff – yet there they are.

          Can you honestly say this is right, away from the pat company response that seems to be coming out?

          As for the Google comparison, they’re not saying they’re “the standard for search engines”, so it’s not really an apt one to make. Standard would suggest everyone knows and uses something – something even social media as a medium doesn’t have, never mind the platforms springing up around it.

        • tonia_ries says:

          @meganberry@DannyBrown@halffiction Megan: I have control over what my web page displays to Google. I don’t have any control over what Klout displays on my profile page. And the score that is assigned to me (or my kids) certainly is not public data that I have created — you have created it and assigned it to me, in a personally identifiable profile.

          There is a world of difference.

        • @tonia_ries@meganberry@DannyBrown@halffiction that’s the largest difference for me as well Tonia – the score is public and unless I opt-out , by signature no less, from something I didn’t sign up for in the first place, it’s public and has potential implications because Klout is the self-proclaimed “standard” in online influence?

          This is beyond irresponsible of a company to do this. And the responses from the company aren’t even close to an explanation. That includes the Google argument above. That argument is frankly total crap which I poke holes in in a recent post and you just did as well Tonia.

          Without creating the accounts for people Klout would not have the mass they need to attract advertisers. It’s simple math that adds up to them winning, consumers losing and once the backlash is large enough the companies involved also losing.

        • tonia_ries says:

          @RobertDempsey … and yet Klout CEO joefernandez is quoted by VentureBeat as saying “The only information that shows up on a (observer) profile is stuff that those users have decided to allow the world to see.”

          ***I DID NOT create my score. Nor did I decide to “allow the world to see” it.*** All I’m asking is that everyone be honest about what is going on here. Without that, we can’t even have a conversation about things like the value of influence measurement. @meganberry @DannyBrown @halffiction

        • DannyBrown says:

          @RobertDempsey@tonia_ries@meganberry@halffiction That’s going to be the interesting play in this whole thing, Robert – just what exactly the partners are thinking. Are a few tweets from supposed “web celebs” enough to pass over the obvious questions around Klout’s approach?

        • PamMktgNut says:

          @meganberry I agree with @DannyBrown Megan. We choose to make a web page public. A 14 year old female on Facebook is not choosing to have her PRIVATE facebook profile picture with her 2 girl friends at their house in their pajamas available on the web for the public.

          There is a BIG difference between a public website and a Facebook profile with settings set to private.

          Similar to credit scores, yes they obtain data from many sources about us. However, they do not make our scores nor our information public. We also are quite aware when we sign mortgage paperwork, rental application, credit application etc. that the authorized business will be both obtaining information and submitting information to the credit bureau. Big difference than what Klout is doing to scrape the Facebook profiles and create a page with the persons (minors) photo and name.

          I think Klout is walking on troubled waters and needs to take this much more seriously than they are.

        • jenzings says:

          The comparison to credit scores is a false one, I’ve seen it raised in a number of places. One, credit scores are private; two, credit scores derive their results from heavily regulated financial industries; three, they are being used as a predictive analysis for a customer who is seeking a substantial monetary transaction–a fairly narrow use. Klout is public, derives its data from public online activity that is totally unregulated and is being used for things far beyond its original intent (jobs? college grades? were these part of the Klout drawing board?)I think they are dancing a tad too close to the fire. Steps are simple: stop saying it’s a standard (it’s not), caution people not to use for anything other than marketing purposes, and by all means, make darn sure public accounts aren’t created for anyone who isn’t aware/doesn’t want one. @PamMktgNut @meganberry @DannyBrown

        • PamMktgNut says:

          @jenzings@meganberry@DannyBrown Amen! I brought it up because I have seen the comparison to credit scores used on many of these forums too the past week. It is not an equal comparison nor is comparing a public website.

          @jenzings your last sentence pretty much states it all “Steps are simple: stop saying it’s a standard (it’s not), caution people not to use for anything other than marketing purposes, and by all means, make darn sure public accounts aren’t created for anyone who isn’t aware/doesn’t want one.”

    • PamMktgNut says:


      I have also sent several tweets and 2 emails to get answers to this particular question as to why these 3 profiles with almost identical stats (6 followers, following same #) and who have sent the same 2 tweets ever are showing up as people I influence.

      Either Klout algorithm is completely wacked or there is truly something unethical going on that is playing to spam accounts. Is there an agenda to get visibility for brands via spam accts that can be setup overnight? Or is it just a coiincidence that 3 profiles with a Klout score of 10 or less show up as top influencers to me and they just so happen to have tweeted the same exact two tweets and have the same number of followers and following??? Klout needs to admit fault where it exists before your community figures it out for you.

      • tonia_ries says:

        @PamMktgNut crazy. let us know if you hear back on this, Pam. @meganberry

      • PamMktgNut says:

        @meganberry@DannyBrown@tonia_ries well today all of hte peeps I influence or influence me are now gone. So I guess I influence nobody, ha! Funny as they may be working on issue but are yet to reply to my several emails calling out this issue since last week. Disappointing at best.

        • tonia_ries says:

          @PamMktgNut the plot thickens! :-) @meganberry @DannyBrown

        • PamMktgNut says:

          @tonia_ries@meganberry@DannyBrown I finally got a response which stated something similar to “your profile was probably affected by a recent “glitch”? Really Klout? Ya’ think? Funny how now all of a sudden all of my influencers have changed to real people.

          More interesting is even though I deleted 7 social network accounts it did not impact my score even one point. So, what does that tell you? That this is an algorithm to be trusted? I think not. I had 800+ friends on Facebook, 1500+ connections on Twitter, YouTube channel 19k views, Foursquare active, yet they were having ZERO impact on score? I am deleting all of our accounts once I figure out how. There is no option to delete the profile at the bottom of my profile settings page.

        • PamMktgNut says:

          @tonia_ries@meganberry@DannyBrown oops.. meant to say 1500+ connections on LinkedIn. Twitter is the only account connected at this point with 65k+ followers. Yet they don’t seem to make a difference as many spam accounts w/only hundreds of accounts have higher scores. Pretty much becoming quite humorous.

        • tonia_ries says:

          @PamMktgNut@meganberry@DannyBrown Pam, I’ve seen some crazy stuff like that, too, and don’t get me started on topics (eg I went to LeWeb 2 years ago yet it still shows up as one of my top topics. The spam accounts are a great example of one of the major issues with influence measurement services in general: unless you’re opt-in only and cross referencing with other data points, you don’t really know if you’re measuring a real person, do you?

          (I saw that you figured out where the opt out link is on the other thread – it’s hidden at the bottom of this page:

        • DannyBrown says:

          @tonia_ries@PamMktgNut Hi guys,

          You might be interested in this panel this coming Wednesday:

          cc: hackmanj

        • hackmanj says:

          @DannyBrown@tonia_ries@PamMktgNut thanks for sharing Danny. It should be a great discussion.

  113. [...] of a young adult will know that nothing is more unlikely,” Ries wrote in an article for The Realtime Report. “Knowing that my son is not on Twitter, and has always been very careful about managing his [...]

  114. [...] jeune adulte saura que rien n’est plus improbable “, Ries a écrit dans un article pour Le Rapport en temps réel . «Sachant que mon fils n’est pas sur Twitter, et a toujours été très prudent sur la [...]

  115. [...] jeune adulte saura que rien n’est plus improbable “, Ries a écrit dans un article pour Le Rapport en temps réel . «Sachant que mon fils n’est pas sur Twitter, et a toujours été très prudent sur la [...]

  116. [...] of a young adult will know that nothing is more unlikely,” Ries wrote in an article for The Realtime Report. “Knowing that my son is not on Twitter, and has always been very careful about managing his [...]

  117. [...] Klout specifically has suffered quite the backlash on social channels. Recent alarms have sounded over privacy concerns and the inability to remove one’s self from Klout. (Though you can do that [...]

  118. [...] jeune adulte saura que rien n’est plus improbable “, Ries a écrit dans un article pour Le Rapport en temps réel . «Sachant que mon fils n’est pas sur Twitter, et a toujours été très prudent sur la [...]

  119. t_1_m says:

    Tonia, I’m really too lazy to split this into single posts using comments hence I’ll drop it all in once as a completely new comment, hope you don’t mind! (and sorry for the delay…) – so this is a reply to the series of comments ending with

    First of all thank you for the kudos and the continuation of the discussion, I knew it would turn into something productive and who knows, if you really like it you might turn it into a blog post eventually (deswegen bleiben wir auch vorerst mal beim Englisch, oder? ;)

    I’d love to take a look at every single point you brought up because I think they are all very relevant

    1. Taking publicly available data and then “add a number to it based on some mysterious algorithm” sounds strangely familiar to me: what are S&P, Moody’s and Fitch doing again? See imho the internet isn’t anything else but a microcosm that mimics society: what ever is prevalent in the real world will eventually find application “in the cyberspace”, too and as ever so often that has two sides to it – yet it is a matter of fact and a neat little play on gamification, no one in his serious mind can, will or should take klout scores too serious (and if some weird agencies are doing that I bet Darwinism will take good care of them eventually…)

    2. If you check the facebook API documentation you’ll see that klout probably isn’t even able to obtain DOBs for many people they are scraping data from: states that you require a specific token to get the information – well, unless someone has made this information explicitly available by handing off one of the required tokens it won’t be visible. You can even try that for yourself here:,birthday – and you’ll see all you get is the information that is publicly available anyways because if it were that simple I bet klout would rather walk their own talk, then loosing clout by infringing their privacy policy.

    That aside though I am a huge fan of fixing root cause much rather than fighting symptoms: kids bullying others isn’t a problem of klout (clout?) but of upbringing and education – mutual respect and courtesy go an amazingly long way yet they seem to have been forgotten in a society that prefers to elbow any kind of “obstacle” out of its way while blaming others, or we’ll abolish anything else that makes some bully others ;)

    • tonia_ries says:

      @t_1_m the comparison to ratings agencies is not quite valid — those are highly regulated; Klout claims to be a “standard” but it is not transparent or regulated. Unfortunately, a lot of people do take their Klout scores very seriously.

      I’m no expert on API’s but companies need to be held responsible for complying with legal regulations, which in the US includes regulations protecting children online. How they check birthdays is up to them. At least Klout has made a change the now allows you to opt out if you find they have created a profile for a kid.

      As far as raising kids into smart, mature adults: that’s a conversation we’d better have over a beer sometime. :-)

  120. t_1_m says:

    Hm, guess it was too long indeed … so here’s Part 2 :)

    3. What ever you put online is “out in the wild” and can never be deleted again – I know it somewhat sucks and a great many people hate the fact, yet there are constellations where this makes a lot sense and has helped bringing down dictatorships for exactly that reason: communication online can not be contained – if you’d like to keep things private put it behind “bars”: web space is cheap and technology got simpler over time, setting up your own thing to host a blog or your pictures takes a little effort but isn’t outworldishly complex or you’d have to pay for some premium service to enjoy protection because as long as you get all this wonderful and expensive to build, maintain and protect software for free you are not the customer, you are the product, something you (again, “the user”) needs to be aware of and accept.

    4. As mentioned I honestly think we shouldn’t hold facebook (or any other platform) accountable for its users incapability of managing their post settings: they have done a nice job in explaining things when they introduced the new publisher and there isn’t much they can do about their users ignorance (trust me, I’m deploying software for a living I’ve seen this a thousand times …) – and even if they would (“Warning: you are posting public – are you really sure that is what you want to do?”) they would certainly aggravate power users (ok, it could be opt out for the reminder but where do you draw the line in making things utterly poke yoke?)

    • tonia_ries says:

      @t_1_m Social media has created an opportunity for *everyone* — including my aunt, grandparents and neighbor down the street — to participate in a global digital community, whether they have the tech savvy to set up their own private web site or not. If platforms like Facebook do not find a way to make users comfortable with the level of control they have over privacy or digital boundaries in general, the social web will not be as successful as it could be.

  121. t_1_m says:

    And Part 3

    Now, we already discussed privacy and containment of information under #3 yet again: if you want things protected lock it up in your own webspace while taking appropriate precautions (directory protection, strong passwords, hardened software, injection-protected databases, …) or pay someone to take care of this for you. Maybe that is a niche you could make millions with? Or the reason Diaspora will be great, if they ever manage to launch? A truly secure social network where all your content is super-safe, no google crawling, not way-back caching, no leakage, no advertising (because you don’t have anything to offer to advertisers in the first place as you’re not profiling your members…) – the problem with that? Operating expense! Who’s paying for all of the upkeep and maintenance? The users? Hardly, not only because “free” is the thing on the internet and either awareness with the user is too low but because those that are aware have the skills required to help themselves in keeping things balanced – something your son might indeed help with solving one day, though to really solve this I guess one would need to study sociology and organizational psychology: the challenge is with the people and their values and beliefs not really in technology, that imho is just the means to an end ;)

    Sorry for being somewhat lengthy and going off topic ever so often but I enjoyed it, so what do you think, where do we take this next? :)

    • tonia_ries says:

      @t_1_m Again, you need a balance. Keep it open enough so it’s accessible. Make it secure enough so people feel comfortable using it. Yes, users need to take responsibility, but if tech companies like Facebook and Klout do their share of the hard work in solving this, they will lose users. / And why wait for my son to save the world? :-)

  122. SmartWraps says:

    @PamMktgNut I was leery of Klout. Too many changes once people got active in it. Like Facebook.

  123. [...] in the cards even though it would be a best practice to try to accommodate especially when your under fire for privacy concerns.Who knows maybe the right person at Klout or Microsoft will stumble across this post and reach out [...]

  124. rhondaserkes says:

    @nikkimartinpr I agree it’s scary…but on the other hand if you want something private posting it online is the last place you want to…

    • nikkimartinpr says:

      @rhondaserkes Agreed! It’s just scary that Klout profiles are being created for minors w/o their permission/knowledge. NOT a good thing.

  125. [...] Then more fuel was added to the fire this week, regarding their privacy policy. (It’s time to name a law that every social media company will inevitably have a privacy scandal.) [...]

  126. pm4girls says:

    @andypiper Useful article on @klout, thanks. So I have to create a profile before I can delete my data? Madness.

    • andypiper says:

      @pm4girls yes it was terribly nice of @klout to create your profile in order to encourage you to sign up, huh? *facepalm*

  127. Dylan_LW says:

    Nice post. Nice thread.

    I used Klout for two reasons but after the big “make-over” and migrating to the “new” klout I read up on what the controversy was all about and found the disadadvantages by far outweigh the advantages (as to how used it). Was unaware of these privacy issues (esp minors).

    Primary reason to use Klout, to me anyway, was to be able to give a/o receive +k, even though this did not at all influence anyone’s score. Giving +k to someone was a nice way of (unexpectedly) giving someone a compliment. It also offered others an option like an ice-breaker, opening/pick-up line. That’s all.

    A secondary reason to use Klout, or rather stats in general: check back if scores/stats plummeted. If so that mighta been an indicator that (unintentionally) I may have pissed a lot of people of. Let’s say I have a change in topics or use more tongue-in-cheek and the score plummets, it would tell me: “people don’t get that.”

    As to actual Klout score itself. I found Klout was rather quirky to say the least in the month prior to the big change. But I just thought, well heye, these guys are working on something new so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Either way in my opinion the actual graphs were buggy and did not at all represent actual influence values.

    Some examples on that. Logged in on Monday and it says yesterday’s (sunday) score was lets say 58. Checked in two day later and Sunday’s score was 56. Checked in again two days later and that very same last sunday changed to 60. If this goes on for a while, well okay, maybe some bugs or something. I dunno. But if the number remain unreliable I can #not use it for analysis (of unintentionally pissing tweeps off).

    When all hell broke loose and everyone started complaining I rad up on some blogs and discovered that spammers actually get high scores. I simply don’t want to be associated with any company, tool or service that promotes spammers.

    So the advantages are basically gone, unreliable stats, I couldnt delete my profile, giving +k is a minor reason and can also be done in a tweet or FF. And the disadvantages (promote spammers) got bigger. Not to mention that they insulted my friends and marketed this as being a good thing.

    But now that I’ve read up on this privacy issue I am glad that I deleted my profile

    • tonia_ries says:

      @Dylan_LW Thanks, Dylan. The platform seems very unstable right now. They had a lot of supporters and even strong fans before these changes — it seems to me that they would keep more of these supporters on board if they were communicating more openly about what the problems are, and what they’re doing to address them. Other than adding the opt-out option, they really haven’t addressed any of these concerns at all.

      • Dylan_LW says:

        @tonia_ries TY Tonia for your reply and yes communication is #the key. As it is the key to just about everything. I think the way many people perceived it was “I scored 8 out of 10 yesterday and now w/o any explanation all of a sudden they #downgraded me to a 6″ … or even worse “and they are telling me this is a good thing.” That pisses a lot of people off. Something that could have easily been avoided by clearly communicating what the new scores actually mean.

        • PamMktgNut says:

          I agree. I also don’t think most folks are upset about their score dropping. Instead they are frustrated of the inaccuracies and wacky things going on with the measurement algorithm. It then brings concern on the scores. It’s a vicious circle that Klout has got themselves into. If they don’t answer basic questions then people start to question everything, they lose our trust, they lose credibility and then people want to completely disconnect. Answers to some of the most basic questions could really help save their reputation and credibility within the market. To me the biz’s who admit their mistakes earn double points vs the ones that hide and ignore the voice of their customers.

        • tonia_ries says:

          @Dylan_LW but why should we communicate with our users? they’re just the sheep that we’re selling to our advertisers. ;-)

        • Dylan_LW says:

          @tonia_ries LOL.

        • Dylan_LW says:

          @PamMktgNut “To me the biz’s who admit their mistakes earn double points vs the ones that hide and ignore the voice of their customers.” Hear hear Pam. Would give you +K if only I still had Klout ;-)

  128. [...] two reasons, from a recent commenter calling himself Dylan_LW: I used Klout for two reasons but after the big “make-over” and migrating to the [...]

  129. [...] The latest issue about privacy came up when a woman noticed that her teenage son had a Klout profile. [...]

  130. [...] taken concrete steps to address another set of controversies.  On October 27, I described how Klout had crossed a serious line in online privacy by creating unauthorized profiles for people in my Facebook social graph–including my [...]

  131. [...] Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far. – The Realtime Report [...]

  132. [...] a marketing scheme for its perks programme? as I wondered – and on some of its practices in how it captures data and how it markets its perks to [...]

  133. [...] is their scoring of people who have not signed up for the service and a massive issue reported by Tonia Ries who discovered that her underage child had a Klout score without signing up and there was no way to [...]

  134. [...] Ries’s Klout score w&#1077nt up sharply &#1072ft&#1077r &#1109h&#1077 wrote a blog post &#1072b&#959&#965t h&#1077r experience &#1072n&#1281 posted a link t&#959 &#1110t &#959n Twitter. [...]

  135. [...] human beings has a long history, and while Klout, Peerindex and Kred are wonderfully new and shiny (although increasingly less shiny in the case of Klout), they are the second cousins, once removed, of psychometrics – the scientific art of [...]

  136. [...] Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far. Oct 27, 2011 [...]

  137. klikra says:


    I’ve been fascinated reading this thread. I am especially curious to understand more about how my activity online can ultimately affect people I am associated with. The matrix seems overwhelming. If I am posting online, my post is connected to any number of additional platforms (facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) that simultaneously replicate my message. My message is not 1+1=2. It seems the message and subsequent involuntary subject association replication is more like 1×10=5,000.

    #1 – With all these socialized cross platforms intermeshed… online privacy dying, or dead?

    I think about those of us who are trying to promote our professional careers or businesses by posting information and relevant content a a key method to networking and growth.

    Trying to shield our private information from going public and being snagged by companies like Klout, seems as complicated as the “amazing” algorithms that google is using to take over the online world.

    #2 – What can the novice, or professional content poster realistically do to prevent involuntary private association leaks – yet still have a consistent online presence?

    #3 Are you going to publish an e-book on this subject? The Social Privacy Labyrinth – Protecting Yourself and Those Around You. BTW, if you use this title, I want some associated credit.

    Keep Moving forward.


    • tonia_ries says:

      @klikra Hey Klinton – you make some great points, and yes, it is a labyrinth! Here’s one way to look at it: if you chose to be very active online – posting a lot of content on a lot of networks for professional reasons, as you describe – then yes, you should assume that everything you say or do online is public and fair game for these networks to share. It would be just too crazy to try and manage the digital boundaries around every piece of content you share. If you are online for personal reasons only, and want to share with a set group of friends, then you’re not going to be broadcasting as broadly, so you have a lot less to manage and worry about. (But it’s still tricky and still needs to be managed.) Where this example went over the line is that they pulled pieces of my social graph that were private and exposed information about those people publicly.

      what do you think?

  138. klikra says:

    oh, and I am totally serious about an e-book, but completely joking about title creds….lol

    • tonia_ries says:

      @klikra Hey Klinton – a little tired right now, so will respond to your v. thoughtful comment below after I’ve had some coffee in the am. Meanwhile, I love the idea of an ebook on this topic – and maybe you should be the one to run with it?!? Happy to help / contribute. :-) Talk to you in the am.

  139. [...] expose profiles meant to be private. This was brought to light by marketing blogger Tonia Ries, who saw her son's picture come up when she logged in to Klout. Her son had taken pains to make his Facebook profile private; but [...]

  140. 3dmodelsart says:

    I think there are some people who won’t like this but what’s for me – I like it. No matter what they say if your opinion is true.

  141. [...] had never registered with Klout. The story broke when Ries published her discovery on her blog, The Real Time Report. In her article, Ries also cited that this Klout privacy invasion wasn’t a new issue; in fact [...]

  142. [...] Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far – Tonia Ries [...]

  143. [...] to Tonia Ries with The Realtime Report, Klout created a profile for her son based on information it collected from her Facebook. The [...]

  144. [...] Klout profile. Many smart people have covered the privacy topic more throughly than I can because their own children have Klout profiles. That’s right, minors with private accounts have Klout profiles which [...]

  145. [...] Privacy Fail: Klout Has Gone Too Far. Klout is creating profiles for people you're connected to on Facebook. People like your mother-in-law, and your kids. Here's the scoop. Source: [...]

  146. [...] Klout specifically has suffered quite the backlash on social channels. Recent alarms have sounded over privacy concerns and the inability to remove one’s self from Klout. (Though you can do that [...]

  147. iNETSEO says:

    @Piers_Butler Yeah but they are working hard to sort that out and seem to be addressing those problems :) Interesting read tho!

  148. [...] Media and Privacy:   Today’s generation is growing up confronted by an unprecedented lack of privacy.  I’ve talked to many young (and not-so-young) people who feel overwhelmed by the constant [...]

  149. [...] are a number of privacy concerns being talked about as well, including concerns about the volume of data that sites like Klout have on people that have never even subscribed to or even heard about the…. That is of course a big issue but not the point of this [...]

  150. Sheeta_Su says:

    @Fiohnel I like how the articles slowly get angrier and angrier lol

  151. Quora says:

    Who has the most KLOUT Achievements so far?…

    I think I had 43 or 47, something with a 4 at the beginning ;) However I couldn’t see the point of it and it had the distinct look of spam about it (an opinion I’ve seen crop up on Twitter and in blogs). It appears to have addressed the worst of the …

  152. [...] care about my Klout score. It’s a fairly arbitrary number, subject to change, prone to privacy snafus. Like most social platforms & tools these [...]

  153. [...] importantly, however:  why is Klout targeting teens–barely 6 months after a major privacy fail based on Klout creating profiles for minors raised a furor, including coverage in The New York [...]

  154. [...] I have learned first-hand, Facebook privacy permission settings are a tricky thing.  Klout had to change the way it managed data from Facebook accounts shortly after it added the [...]

  155. [...] care about my Klout score. It’s a fairly arbitrary number, subject to change, prone to privacy snafus. Like most social platforms & tools these [...]

  156. Meh. This is what you get for sharing information about your son publicly.

    I love when people get mad that they share public information thats GASP publicly available….


  157. […] of a young adult will know that nothing is more unlikely,” Ries wrote in an article for The Realtime Report. “Knowing that my son is not on Twitter, and has always been very careful about managing his […]

  158. […] ~ 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 […]

  159. […] with another, or even a website, unexpected things can occur. For instance, my friend Tonia Ries blew the whistle on the Klout integration with Facebook, which had the effect of a minor getting a Klout account […]

  160. […] a few points dropped, while others gave a “poop” about the whole thing. I even read that a blogger’s child’s face had their own Klout page with his own number. Really? That’s when I would be […]

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