Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spam Nation - Disintegrating Respect One Friend at a Time

Dear reader,

If I or one of your friends referred you to this blog, please do not be offended. The intent is to help you be the kind, considerate person it is believed you intend to be, or to help you help friends who do not realize they have been deceived into spamming others.

If Facebook was a country, with a population of over 840 million users it would be the third largest nation in the world, and Facebook, more than any other nation in the world, has embraced Orwellian doublethink

In the Facebook doublethink nation, “like” may mean you want to tell a group what idiots they are, but to have a voice in their forum you engage in a practice called “liking” to tell them you hate them. “Like” may mean you want to get something free and if you click a little button that says “like” you will get something free from an organization you don’t even care about. This is like saying you “like” someone you don’t give a damn about to get laid, except if six months of free antivirus is as good as getting laid, you’re doing it wrong, not that lying to get laid is ever right.

“Friend” frequently means “someone you have never met, you have talked to very little, and you know virtually nothing about.” The dictionary definition of friend applies to a small percentage of what Facebook defines as “Friends”. That said, most everyone on Facebook does have some friends who fit the traditional definition and many of these people have become quite rude to their real friends because “Sharing” is doublethink for spamming on Facebook.

Would you consider it kind, friendly, or considerate of me to sign you up for spam that relates to something you have no interest in? Is it fair for me to force you to opt out of something you never expressed any interest in that I didn’t even actively post to your newsfeed? I’m not talking about posting something you disagree with, I am talking about allowing a business to advertise on YOUR newsfeed because I gave them permission to without asking you if that is what you wanted. Fundamentally it is absolutely no different than me signing you up for email spam, except in the rude nation of doublethink called Facebook.

Specifically, this rude behavior is a by-product of the spammy world of Facebook apps. Facebook apps re-wrote the dictionary entries for deception and rudeness.

Let’s take a look at what you agree to and we change the marketing lies and deception into truth and disclosure.

You see where it says “Okay, Watch Video”? That means that you have just agreed to become a spammer on behalf of the company that makes the Viddy app. It means that you agree to let Viddy post any action you take on Facebook, including sharing private messages between you and others.

“This app may post on your behalf, including videos you watched, people you liked and more” means that “and more” is not defined or limited. Facebook may claim they have policies that would prohibit this kind of information sharing abuse, but Facebook’s terms of service are subject to change and Facebook itself has consented to 20 years of government auditing for privacy abuses. The company claiming the rights to post on your behalf has just tricked you into becoming their unpaid spammer and spamming people you call friends. Do you really trust them to do what is right?

Do you really want to tell your friends every video you watch? Do you really think they want to hear about every video you watch? Do you understand it isn’t at all about what you watched, it is all about spamming the name “Viddy” in as many people’s newsfeeds as is possible, and using you as the unpaid spammer.

This activity is not limited to teeny-bopper fads like Viddy. The Washington Post is a major spammer in the Facebook Nation and is all too happy to turn you into a spammer as well.

Now, you see where it says “Who can see posts this app makes for you on your Facebook timeline”? Let’s get rid of the deception. What this means is who are you going to sign up for spam. By default you sign up your friends, relatives, basically all of Facebook for spam when you enable an app that posts “on your behalf”. By the way, it is not on your behalf it is for the sole purpose of selling product and using your Facebook account to spam the world. This is the place where you can choose not to become a spammer and limit the posts to yourself or a selected group of people if you use lists.  Below is a list of the choices. Be kind and change the default. If Facebook had a person with a conscience in charge, the default would always be “only me”, but decency must be an active choice and is never a default.

Don’t be fooled though, if you limit it to just you, it may be temporary. You see, you also agree to the Viddy terms of service which explicitly state that “Any updates, new services or any modifications of an existing service will be governed by the TOS, which may be modified or updated from time to time in our sole discretion. The continued use of the Site or Services following the posting of changes to the TOS constitutes your acceptance to such changes. We strongly encourage you to regularly review this TOS.”

In other words, at any time Viddy can change who they spam back to everyone again.

There are worse apps than the ones that at least let you choose to limit the audience when you sign up. Some of the apps do not offer a choice at sign up. Let’s look at the app “Words with Friends”. Yes, that right, the app for those who wish to emulate the self-centered Alec Baldwin. I don’t know if Words with Friends will let you call your 11 year old daughter a “thoughtless little pig”, but it will let you spam your friends. From the screen below, it doesn’t appear that limiting the audience is an option.

For the sleazy apps like Words with Friends and Farmville, you have to go into your app settings after you agree to be a rude spammer and then change into a respectful person by changing the auto-spam settings.

There are thousands of apps on Facebook and many of them start spamming as soon as you start using them. If you have 100 friends, then you have just opted 100 people into spam who then have to learn how to opt out if they happen to figure out that they can get rid of the spam. You clicked once and signed 100 people up for spam without asking them if that is what they wanted.

If you signed up for 10 apps (yes angry birds and bejeweled are apps) then you have signed each person you call a friend up for 10 spam feeds without asking them if that they want that spam. That is 10 separate apps that you have forced people you call friends intro having to unsubscribe from to get out of the spam. Their other option is to simply unfriend you or ignores all but “important posts”. Does anybody know how to make a post “important? Seeing as it is Facebook, I haven’t looked into what makes a post “important”, but it sure as heck isn’t Bejeweled Blitz spam!

 So you signed up for an App on Facebook and didn’t quite understand how rude the app provider was going to make you be to your friends. I don’t take it personally, you weren’t intending to be rude or insensitive. My friend, you were played like a violin… too bad the tuba player was the one playing you.

In the computer security industry a zombie is a computer that is infected with a bot. One of the nefarious things that zombie computers do is send spam from the infected computer. In the Facebook Nation, app providers make you into a spambot zombie. For your own security and privacy I recommend turning off ALL Facebook apps, but I will teach you how to cure yourself of the zombie infection and even still be able to use apps if you want to. For those of you who don’t mind looking around a little bit, it’s in your privacy settings under apps and websites. If you happen to be a zombie and are proud of it, please don’t bite off my head.

To begin, go to the upper right portion of your Facebook screen and click the little down arrow by the word “Home” and choose privacy settings.

Next, you are going to choose "Edit Settings" from "Apps and Websites". You may have to scroll down a little to find "Apps and Websites", depending upon your screen.

Now you can click on each app and disable its ability to spam the world all the while abusing your fine name!

If you don’t want the app to ever post anything then click remove where it says “Post on your behalf” in the top section where it says “This app can:”. This really would read “Post on the advertiser’s behalf if Facebook required honesty in Facebook advertising. If you do want some people to see what the app posts, then do not remove the post on your behalf feature.

Continue to the “Public” button and change that setting to something considerate of your many friends. This is where lists can be handy. Suppose you have a group of friends who play “Words with Friends” and they really do want to know what words you play, then make a list and let the app post status to that list. For most people I think “Only Me” is the correct option.

If you choose custom it appears to allow you to specify people, but I haven’t tested it.

Now you know how to use the apps you want without being a rude zombie spammer and eating your friends!

I would encourage you to share this each time someone allows an app to spam your newsfeed to help them be a kinder, more considerate friend on Facebook.

Copying this blog and even translating it for non-commercial purposes is explicitly allowed IF you let me know where it is being posted and how to contact you. You can leave a comment as I moderate all comments and I won’t publish notes directed to me with personal information.

Commercial organizations wishing to republish this blog must make arrangements with me.

Randy Abrams
Independent Security Analyst
© 2012


  1. Great post, timely and smart. The key element with Viddy on Facebook is that after you've authorized the app, watched your video and spammed all your friends, it doesn't appear on your timeline the same way it appears in your friends' feeds. In the ones I've seen, it leaves a little one-liner in the "Activity" section of the your timeline, rather than showing it as the full-blown "post" (with clickable video thumbnail) that appears on friends' feeds. As a result, people don't even know they've spammed everyone will a full post because it doesn't appear on their profile/timeline that way.

  2. The first part of this post is resentful, entitled gibberish. But the warning/information about Viddy is perfectly accurate. So thanks.

  3. Hi EB,

    The warning/information isn't about Viddy, it is about hundreds, if not thousands of Facebook apps. Viddy was only one example. The "warning/information" applies equally to Farmville, Bejeweled Blitz, Yahoo, The Washington Post Social Reader, and many, many more apps.

    Perhaps you could be more specific about what you are calling "resentful, entitled gibberish". Other than friends willing to learn how to NOT sign people up for spam, I don't know what you are calling "entitled". Read George Orwell's 1984 and the "gibberish" will become meaningful information. So, do write back and please be specific about what you are referring to as "resentful, entitled gibberish".



  4. I need to create an app entitled "Millions for me" and everytime someone "Likes" it, $100.00 is deposited from their bank account to mine. :-)

    1. I suppose you will call the app "Charity" :)