Big news this week was Facebook's push for Places, it's geo-location answer to Foursquare, and its launch of "event check-ins" on mobile phones. Unfortunately. like an updated version of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," it's attracting the wrong crowd of people - namely, spammers! Now, I ask you, is that any way to run a location-based social network?
According to a ReadWriteWeb report, spammers are accessing Facebook Events to deceptively fool users into filling out online surveys, taking part in online contests and performing other sundry tasks generating commissions for the perpetrators.
In some instance, users who have bought into the whole Facebook's privacy-be-damned-ethic have willingly given up their mobile phone numbers to these unwanted guests and/or event hosts - who in turn feed the data into an automated system that registers them for expensive premium services.
According to the report, "using Facebook Events to promote links has been highly successful in their efforts to dupe unsuspecting users thus far." TrendMicro indicated that "tens of thousands" of participants had been roped into registering for a spammer's event, and the security firm Saphos noted that out of 10 million Facebook users targeted, over 165,000 had accepted these types of invitations.
Similar to "link-farms" spammers used to improve SEO rankings on Google in the past, these groups have used Facebook Events to post links to users' wall where they can easily be overlooked in their News Feeds. According to Paul Pajares at TrendMicro "these bogus events often have tantalizing link-bait titles like "How to Find Out Who's Viewing Your Profile" or "Who Blocked You From His Friends List?"
In the 'stranger than fiction' category, sometimes spammers use titles that shock you into wanting to learn more about a topic. In the case of "You will NEVER send a TEXT after seeing this VIDEO!," Sophos noted that over 13,000 users had registered to attend this bogus event.
Now, the question is what is Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook doing about this? So far there have been no announcement to address the issue, nor any change to their privacy settings.
When you compare the number of times that FB runs up against privacy issues of this nature, you have to wonder how other networks, particularly in the geo-location space have stayed clear of similar incidents. Is it due to FB's 600 million+ users compared to say, Foursquare's 7.5 million, or is that the smaller LBSs are more cautious and pre-emptive in addressing these issues before they start becoming a reality?
In any event (pun intended), the next time you invite someone to your party, make sure you check the guest list very carefully!