Friday, September 07, 2007

I didn't mean to spam you... - See below why this text isn't linked to the website


I've been on the Internet for a dozen yers and have very rarely been taken in by phishing schemes, but this site's deceptive practices were too good. It spammed everybody in my address book after telling me it would just look for people who had already signed up. Nowhere in the fine print does it say it will do this. This site deserves to wither and die.


Most social network sites have some sort of address book lookup feature. However, reputable ones report back who is and isn't on the service, and then give you the choice to email some, all, or none of the contacts that aren't. Quechup saves you time by skipping that bothersome "obtaining consent" step.


Some of the bloggers who have written about this have had commenters respond that there is a disclaimer about the invitations. A quick review of the privacy policy and terms of service make no mention of this practice. Below is the actual text you receive before beginning the address-book search:

Congratulations! Welcome to Quechup. Find out which of your friends are already members. Choose the address book with the most contacts and we'll search for matches so you can add them to your friends network and invite non Quechup members to join you. By inviting contacts you confirm you have consent from them to send an invitation. We will not spam or sell addresses from your contacts. See our privacy policy.


In the strictest possible interpretation, yes, it does say they will invite non-members. Anybody who has used address book search on another social network, though, will be expecting the opportunity to select which addresses are invited. The only way to prevent someone from receiving a message from Quechup is to remove them from your address book before starting the search: That just isn't acceptable, as far as I'm concerned.


As evidenced by the large number of intelligent individuals currently issuing apologies for accidentally spamming everyone they've ever known, I'm going to declare this one a deceptive practice. The average user - indeed, even the above average user - is unlikely to interpret the "warning" to mean "We will send an invitation to everyone in your address book without any further action on your part." It's deceptive, it takes advantage of users' good faith, and it's creating a lot of headaches.


If you were one of the many individuals in my address book who received spam from using my address book .... I am extremely sorry!

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