Oct 302011
 October 30, 2011  Posted by  Breaches, Business, Featured News

Lisa Vaas has more on a privacy concern raised by Tonia Ries about Klout creating profiles on  children. I mentioned the concern a few days ago and tweeted a message to @klout asking them for a response to the allegations, but @Klout did not reply to me.  They did, however, send a tweet to Tonia the day after her commentary appeared and after she tweeted their privacy officer:

@meganberry Megan: you are displaying a profile and a score for my son. He does not have a Twitter account. He has not registered for Klout

@Klout replied:

@tonia_ries if you email [email protected] with info on this we will remove it ASAP.

Tonia replied:

@klout I did. and got an auto-response telling me I’d get a real response in 3 days. @meganberry

I guess “as soon as possible” is three days?

Vaas’s article, which you can read on Naked Security suggests that instead of this story   going away, more and more people are picking up the complaint.  As one example, @ScatteredMom tweeted:

@klout I want to know why you created a profile on my MINOR son without his (or my) permission.

Klout replied:

@scatteredmom if you email [email protected] and show us where that is we will delete it immediately.

Maybe they will delete it immediately, but what they haven’t said is that they will change their ways to prevent future recurrences.  In the absence of any such commitment, it seems likely that Klout will keep doing what it has been doing.  Nor do they guarantee that they will remove profiles of adults, no questions asked.

Klout needs to provide a prominent button or link from their home page to enable  people and/or parents to remove profiles. No explanation needed, no questions asked.  And Klout needs to ensure that its methods do not create profiles on minor children without the explicit opt-in consent of parents.

Klout may point out that other aggregators do not provide such easy opt-out and they’d be right.  But I don’t accept it with other aggregators, either, and I certainly don’t accept it with them because they are not just aggregating. They are manipulating information and  not only creating a record about people who have not asked to have a record created, but they are making that record available to anyone who goes to their site, and they are providing a measure or “score” that some idiotic potential employer or college might foolishly look at.

Klout seemingly makes no affirmative effort to confirm that an individual is not a minor child before creating a profile. Surely the burden should not be on the parent or child to correct the situation. Klout cannot outsource its responsibilities to Facebook or any other online source. The FTC and members of Congress who are genuinely concerned about online privacy of youth would do well to take a look at this situation.

In the meantime, privacy advocates need to roundly condemn what Klout is doing and encourage Klout to clean up their act.

And while they’re at it, Klout may want to learn the valuable lesson of never, ever mess with mothers who are protecting their cubs.  If Congress won’t get you, mothers will.

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