Thursday, December 8, 2011

Opt-In vs. Opt-Out

There's been a lot of conversation in recent weeks concerning the responsibility of social measurement companies like PROskore and Klout with regards to privacy.  The extra attention we receive is due in large part to the fact that we're in the 'sensitive' business of rating people.  How we choose to collect and analyze data in order to quantify a person's 'worth' as a human being shouldn't be taken lightly.

Some of the biggest debates are over whether these new social platforms should be what the industry describes as 'Opt-in' or 'Opt-Out'.  For those of you unfamiliar with the lingo, here's low-down:

  • Opt-In:  Having the ability to choose explicitly whether to join or permit something.
  • Opt-Out:  Having the option to remove yourself from something, regardless of whether you ever chose to opt-in.

With so much public facing data available to developers these days, the ability to pull data from multiple platforms to create a profile about a person whether they like it or not is quickly becoming easier and easier.   Information once available only to the largest data centers in the world is now available through the API's of public networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to name a few.  Much of this data can be manipulated and re-formatted in masse to create an entirely new online 'community' out of thin air.  The implications are both exciting and unnerving to many.

PROskore (which measures professional reputation) is one of those companies that has elected to pursue the Opt-In approach to building it's community.  Meaning, every person who has a profile on PROskore has chosen to create it.  Subsequently, each person is also fully aware that they have a PROskore (score) while also having the opportunity easily Opt-Out.

There are a variety of reasons why PROskore has chosen to be 100% Opt-In.  The reasons go beyond the respect we feel people (and their reputation) deserve.  They are also based on the fact that PROskore is first and foremost an online business network designed to help professionals generate business. For this to work effectively, every person on the network must be authentic and engaged.  Allowing people to decide to be a part of the network (i.e. Opt-In) is the obvious first step in making our platform work.

An example of the Opt-Out approach is to take a look at what Klout is doing. Klout, which measures social influence, creates profiles and scores people without their knowledge or permission.  Klout does this by scraping public facing data found on other networks like Twitter and Facebook. Once the data is scraped, Klout assigns a 'social influence' score to the individual based on their popularity on those particular networks regardless of whether the person is actually using those accounts.  To date, Klout claims to have scraped and scored over 100 million profiles.

Unlike PROskore, Klout is in business primarily to sell advertising.  For them, the goal is to assign a score to every human being based on the perceived influence each person has on other social networks.  Similar to Nielsen ratings, Klout sells this information to advertisers and corporations who have an interest in selling products and services.

Opt-In vs. Opt-Out.  Which do you prefer?  

On second thought... Don't bother answering that... you may not have a choice.


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