Everyone here has heard about price discrimination. I know something about your willingness to pay (from other data about you or people like you), and use that to charge you a ‘better’ price. This has mostly been restricted by some combination of ethics, vague legal standards and technology to use ‘coarse’ information, e.g. your age (student/ senior discounts), your address (mailed coupons), and so on. As we pointed out a few months back there are cleverer methods on the way. But today, I think I’ve seen the best yet. A company called Klout (indubitably with the cooler K-based variant of the spelling) looks into your social network and offers a ‘score’ estimating the influence you have. Some geniuses have decided that one’s ‘Klout score’ might be a good way to discriminate on what website you see (and indeed, what free swag you get offered): http://mashable.com/2011/06/22/klout-gate/ . A few concerns:
1. Are we headed toward a world where along with my credit score, I need to monitor my Klout score? This seems several hops, skips and jumps away, but it’s all too easy to imagine a world where access to things I might want is contingent on my Klout score. Of course, one can argue that access to a lot of those things is currently controlled by things like looks, status, wealth with which one’s Klout score will be presumably correlated.
2. If we are, can a system like this account for my offline world in any meaningful way. On logging in, Facebook often prompts me with something useful like “xxxx – you haven’t talked to him lately. Write on his wall”. Where “xxxx” is my brother. And we talk (by phone) almost every day. While “I’m not on Facebook” is the new “I don’t have a TV”; it’s also true that me on facebook does not equal me in person.
3. It seems to me like there’s an easy way to ‘up’ my Klout score– link to every controversial piece I can find, or write about my thoughts on Gay marriage, Abortion, politics, and whether evolution should be taught in schools (be sure to click on that)- stuff I assiduously avoid airing, like most people. Whether or not this ‘influences’ people, enough people will comment to make me seem more Klouty.