As part of my ongoing research into social networks, I sign up at pretty much every site I come across. Today, I came across Gazzag.com.
As part of the sign up process, they offered to import all my contacts from Orkut.com. I agreed, entered my login and password, and all the contacts popped over. Then, Gazzag then took it upon themselves to email all of my contacts saying that I invited them to join my network at Gazzag. As something of a social network expert, all my friends have been saying “Well if Jen invited me, there must be something really great here” and wandered into this evil trap of a social networking site. I did not invite them, I did not email them, and there is nothing special about this site. It basically hijacked my email address and spammed these people from me.
The Gazzag Terms and Conditions says nothing about them using my email address.
There is some small text under the box to import Orkut contacts that says ” Type your Orkut username and password. Your friends will be invited to join you at Gazzag. Note: Gazzag will not store your password. ” I did read this, but I naively took it to mean that my friends who were *already in Gazzag* would be invited to join me. What stupid kind of thing would email everyone I know? I certainly should have been smarter about this, but I am not the only one who has been sucked in here. A Google blog search for Gazzag finds lots of people angry about receiving all these spams and other people angry about finding they were sent.
This kind of practice is not just bad. It’s evil. There are real implications to emails being sent from a user’s address. In my case, messages went to my boss and colleagues who are in much higher positions than me. Those are people whom I think carefully about emailing, and I would never send them an invitation to a general social network. Messages also went to a couple of my exes. People do not actively remove connections in social networks, so a person’s list of friends will often contain people who are not friends any more. It implies something to delete a friend, so most people avoid it by just doing nothing. When a site like Gazzag comes along and emails all those people, it carries a lot of social implications that users probably don’t want to make. I think it’s rare that anyone would want to email their full list of friends with an invitation like this, and Gazzag simply shouldn’t do it.
So, for forcing me and several acquaintances to do a lot of damage control today, I officially declare Gazzag.com my enemy. Note that I have not even given them a link on this blog. Don’t go there. Don’t visit. Don’t sign up. Tell everyone you know to avoid them. I’m an expert, and this time, I mean what you’re reading.