New York Times Takes Klout to Task

klout 300x164 New York Times Takes Klout to TaskGuys, Klout was making profiles for minors, and The New York Times is ON IT. “In the days just before Halloween, Ms. McGary got the fright of her life when she checked her Klout profile,” the Times says. “Hovering above her score were the faces and names of those over whom she had influence, as calculated by Klout. They included her 13-year-old son, Matthew.” Accompanied by a melodramatic photo of a mother gazing anxiously out the window, as if waiting for Klout agents to come for her son.

As far as technology scaremongering goes, this story is pretty egregious. First, the lead: “Can an online algorithm track down your child?” both exaggerates the danger of an automatically-generated Klout score and creates the false impression that an algorithm that tracks users on the web, some of whom are minors, is a new or unusual thing when in fact web browsing habits are tracked by an innumerable number of advertisers, market researchers and spammy directories.

The minor profiles cited in the story were created by crawling users’ Facebook friends, a feature Klout no longer employs. Klout has also started allowing users to delete their profiles. So while Klout still remains spammy at its core, this article, which feels like it was written by a 90-year-old intern, falls short in its indictment–and the writer doesn’t even mention the #OccupyKlout movement.


  1. If someone was really searching for minors, why would they use Klout when they could just use Google or Facebook? Also, if the mother interacts with the son on social media, wouldn’t you expect them to be connected on Klout anyway? The New York Times’ angle on the story is stretching WAY past the realm of inciting actual fear.

  2. some guy says:

    I think you’re missing the point, in that Klout carries a subtext of value–those with higher Klout scores have apparently more value, or importance, than those with lower Klout scores. It’s a status game.

    Assigning such scores to children in their early developing years carries some serious implications. Why should 9-year-old Jonathan have a higher Klout score than 9-year-old Billy? Might that have anything to do with class, race, privilege?

    Kids are stressed enough with the status game that is good grades and getting into college. Now we may have kids stressing over their ‘influence scores’? No wonder we’re in the age of anxiety.