Facebook's new groups can help enhance your privacy, but they're also a ridiculously easy way to spam other users on the social network. It's only a matter of time before the bad guys figure this out and start wrecking inboxes.
It's already begun happening to some power users. Longtime blogger Anil Dash wrote, " I wanted to like groups, but now I'm on 50 unwanted email lists. More incompetent defaults, or an attempt to undermine email?" Social media writer Laura Fitton asked, "Did Facebook simply 'forget' 15 years of email list best practices? I.e., email lists should be opt in, not opt out?" And branding executive Walter Elly quipped, "Facebook? More like automaticallyoptyouINBOOK." Zing!
The problem, in a nutshell, is that Facebook's new groups automatically email members about new postings. And you can be added to a group by any "friend," without permission. When you combine the policy of non-consensual group formation with the policy of sending everyone email notifications by default, you get a spam machine, which is what Facebook will soon become if the company does not take steps to fix this situation. (We've not been able to get comment from the company on whether that's in the cards.)
Web entrepreneur Jason Calacanis thinks Facebook has screwed up the details of groups so badly that it will soon face privacy lawsuits. After someone enrolled Calacanis in a group that implied he was a pedophile, as a baseless prank, he emailed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to call the groups interface "troubling."
Luckily, there is a way for savvy users to avoid the group spam problem. Go to your Facebook page, then select the "Account" menu in the upper right corner, and go to "Account settings:"
On the "My Account" page, you'll see a variety of tabs on top. Select "Notifications:"
On the "notifications" settings page, scroll down to the "Groups" section. It's after the "Facebook" section and "Photos" section. You'll probably want to uncheck the last three types of notifications, at least, to avoid the most common types of group emails:
You should probably retain the first notification checkbox, "adds you to a group," if you want to be able to quickly un-join unsavory groups your "friends" might sign you up for.
[Pic: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg rolls out the new groups feature at company headquarters in Palo Alto, California this week. Getty Images.]