I received an interesting email over the weekend. It was from one of the social network sites. I suppose you would call it a friend request. It was in behalf of one of my book club buddies who lives in England. It stated that he had set up a account where he was going to post photos and wanted me as a friend. In order to become a friend and see the photos I would have to join the site. At the top of the email was a photo of my book club buddy. More interesting however, at the bottom of the email was a section titled Other People You May Know. There with full names and cities of residence and photos were my wife's uncle, my wife's cousin, and a friend of a friend. Indeed I know all three. I could recognize the names, cities, and the photos.
At first I was somewhat awed. "Wow, this is pretty cool!" Then I got a little pissed. "How the hell does this site know that I know these people?" These people all live in the US and my book club buddy is in England. Yeah, I know that doesn't make any difference but it does add to the creep out factor.
I have never had any interest in social networking. So I have never been tempted to join or even look at these sites. So I emailed my buddy a polite note that while I was honored that he would want me for a friend, I am not into this sort of thing and I have read that the social networks get a little cavalier with one's private information. So I declined his offer.
Now it gets very interesting. He wrote back that he did not send a friend request to me, he has never sent a friend request without using private email first. Hmmmmm! He indicated that he was searching for some relatives in the US and the site requested to see his email address book.
So it sounds like these sites will take a look at your address book and then start sending unbidden friend requests in your behalf. So now I am really pissed, and somewhat frightened. This is getting out of hand.
I doubt that my wife's uncle and cousin, and the friend of my friend know that their images, names, and cities of residence are being sent out to people on the basis of automated friend requests sent by social network sites in behalf of people they do not know.
We, the common people, have something that money can't buy, anonymity. I do not ever put my real name, birthday, employer, or photos of myself on the Internet. I am starting to have doubts about putting my city any longer. On any site I give as little information as possible and will intentionally lie on questions that I think have no relevance. What does some internet book club need my real name, address, date of birth and phone number for? They don't. Usually if that is a requirement, I say adios. Nor do I join any site that requires your email address to be public.
I find it extremely troubling that I got this email. I am not mad at my book club buddy. He did nothing to instigate the request, and it would not have bothered me if he had. I would simply decline. I don't hold the individuals responsible for what these sites are doing. The site is the target of my anger. What are they doing with my email address in their files? Why are they sending friend requests without the members knowledge? Why are member's names, photos, and cities being emailed to potentially strangers in behalf of strangers?
I would recommend not joining these sites. If you already have joined I would recommend quitting. From what I have read, your information stays on the site even though you have quit. These sites are collecting information about you and using it without your permission. HANDLE WITH CAUTION!