Facebook’s Roping You Into Things

It’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard.  Facebook is letting your friends sign you up for groups on the site, without your permission or even your knowledge.  Taking a hand in what shows up on your Top News feed makes sense, but this is more a matter of putting people into things they didn’t show any interest in being part of.

Here’s the thing, though: when you get right down to it, this sounds too ridiculous to be true.  Someone you know, essentially forcing you into something on Facebook without your permission?  I know, for one, that it hasn’t happened to me because I checked my account a few minutes ago.  I’ve got some invites I haven’t decided on, but no groups that I don’t remember consciously deciding to join.

However, it does say on Facebook’s FAQs that the new system they’re using for Groups works that way (right here).  Maybe it’s just a matter of me not “friending” any people who’re going to throw me into things without my say-so.  In which case, avoiding the absurd fallout of this “improvement” to Facebook’s programming is a simple matter of not being Facebook friends with anyone you don’t actually know.

Even so, the fact that the guy who invented the site could wind up in a pro-pedophilia group like NAMBLA is very telling about how easy it is to abuse this change in the site’s software.  Maybe this will get them to stop and think about any changes they make before they apply them to the site as a whole.  More likely, though, they’ll just say this is an aberration and that people need to be careful off who they friend on the site.

Which, of course, is true.  You don’t actually need to be Facebook friends with someone you know absolutely nothing about.  There are people who use the site to steal people’s identities and commit other unsavory or illegal acts, the same as there are on the rest of the Internet.  However, that doesn’t mean that Facebook’s owners and webmasters need to make it easier for these people to do anything from committing crimes to simply forcing advertising on you that you don’t want.  If they let stuff like that slide, then they’re just as bad as Google is about privacy issues these days.

So, be careful who you friend, and keep an eye on what groups you’re signed up for.  Because you never know now when someone’s going to use you to pad out their group and spam you with its updates.  Since no one who uses the site is that likely to close out their accounts because of this (you can disengage from groups easy enough, at the same time blocking whomever put you in it in the first place from ever doing so again), applying a bit of care in what you do is the best solution you can use.

  1. #1 by suchheini on November 4, 2010 - 7:42 am

    There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.
    Keep working ,great job!

    • #2 by techndu on November 4, 2010 - 9:04 am

      Thanks! The Features article isn’t actually written by me, but it does certainly raise some issues worth keeping an eye on.
      I still haven’t noticed anyone putting me in any without my ok, but hopefully some of the updates that Facebook has been implementing lately will address the potential for abuse.

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