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Shadow Profiles

Amen to this piece written by Bobbie Johnson on GigaOm concerning how certain sites scrape publicly available data from Facebook and Twitter to create 'profiles' of people without their permission. The focus of the article is on the site AllThis which allows people to bid for other people's time. Their creation of so-called 'shadow profiles' without permission or notification has annoyed a number of people (including the founder of Instapaper). But it also mentions another notable perpetrator: Klout.

A while back, Rohn pointed out that Klout had created a profile of me. Look, here it is. Thing is, I've never signed up to the service and have little interest in doing so. So I e-mailed them to ask them to take it down. They responded that as I hadn't registered on the site, I had to go to a link deep down on their privacy page where I would need to "provide credentials that allow us to verify you as the rightful owner of the profile in question". That turned out to be by using my Twitter or Facebook account. As the profile is not of my making, I didn't see why I should do this.

I wasn't intending to write about this, but it's an example of the wider privacy creep that seems to be taking place right now. It's a rather cavalier three-steps-forward-and-one-step-back-approach to personal data and it's an example of the worst kind of marketing. As the piece on GigaOm points out, the irony is that this uniquely anti-social practice is being conducted by companies that all claim to be 'social'.


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