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Protecting and Managing Your Digital Identity On Social Media Sites

Social Networks

There are a lot of 'Social Networks' on the Internet. The one of the largest is 'MySpace' which has been around for quite awhile. Facebook is another large 'network' which is growing in numbers by the day. Recently Facebook passed the 5 million members mark. Within the last year, a large number of these networks have proliferated. They are 'specialized' in almost everything to tempt users to join. Some of the 'specialties' include study groups such as Extramarks which appeals to students that want to make better grades. How good the network works for them is a question only the members can answer.

There are a lot of these 'networks' and more seem to pop up every day. One of the features of these groups is the method used to get more users. This method requires new members to 'invite' their friends. If this was a simple method of allowing users to input the email addresses of their friends, then this would not be a problem. However, what happens is the user is giving the site access to their address book and then the site sends out invitations to anyone that is in the user's address book.

This includes Yahoo Groups! Since Yahoo does not let anyone post to a Group that is not a member, those 'invitations' are usually just rejected by Yahoo. (Not always if the member is not moderated as the 'invitation' appears to be from the member!) However, the invitations are also sent to the Yahoo Group's Owners/Moderators and these are not rejected by Yahoo. This is treated as Spam (which it is, as unsolicited emails sent to anyone are Spam) by the Group Owners/Moderators.

Many Yahoo Groups have a policy about spammers, including this Group. We don't allow it, and spammers are removed from the Group and usually banned.

Lately the Owners/Moderators have been bombarded with these 'invitations'. We don't like it at all and members who are responsible for this invasion of 'invitations' are being removed from the Group.

The problem seems to be that nearly everyone who joins these networks does not seem to be aware they are handing over their entire address book to the site and everyone in the address book is being spammed. This Spam is being sent to any financial institution the member may do business with, any other website they may have contacted such as customer service for their ISP, retail merchants, etc.

I recently became aware of this when a long time member of another Group joined a network and everyone was spammed. The member was totally mortified and had no idea this was happening.

So please be aware, if you decide to join one of these networks, don't just blindly click everything that is offered to you. (That's what the embarrassed member of the other Group did, just clicked Next and then the 'invitations' went out.)

Remember, in order to access an email address book, the users are also giving someone access to their email as well.  While the process is surely automated, the fact is, once a user gives someone the user ID and password to an email account, strictly speaking that account is compromised.