[Air-L] "unsubscribing" from a social networking site

Christopher Lueg christopher.lueg at utas.edu.au
Tue Oct 2 19:51:46 PDT 2007

Dear all

There is something I find quite interesting. Someone created an account 
with one of the biggest social networking sites around using one of my 
email addresses (without my permission; probably a typo only causing a 
problem because the social networking site does not seem to verify email 
addresses). I noticed the unauthorized use of my email address because I 
received a "new friend" message belonging to that account.

Nothing unusual as the respective address is with a popular "freemail" 
provider and is (ab)used fairly frequently. I merely keep the address as a 
way to learn how many sites (still) don't use confirmed-opt-in and how 
sites respond to abuse notifications (some of the sites owned by big media 
companies are the worst).

The interesting bit is the approach the social networking site recommends 
to solve the abuse problem:

> If you are the owner of the email account, you can delete the profile
> that is using it. First, from [site], click on the "forgot my
> password" link, to have the password sent to the email address
> associated with the account.
> Then, return to [site], click on 'Account Settings' and then click
> on 'Cancel Account'. An email will be sent to the email address used as
> the login name to verify Account Deletion.

This is a fairly common response actually. Over the years the respective 
address has been (ab)used to subscribe to quite a few newsletters, join 
online communities etc. When complaining, most sites suggest I 
"unsubscribe" by clicking certain unsubscribe links or follow certain 
"unsubscribe" procedures similar to above.

Usually, they are surprised when I tell them I can't unsubscribe something 
I never subscribed to... after all, it's not my subscription! Just like 
the above social networking site account is not my account (verified).

My impression is the sites just try to off-load inconvenient 
administration work but by doing so they put third parties not associated 
with their business dealings in an awkward position.

Any thoughts?

Best regards

Dr. Christopher Lueg
Professor of Computing
University of Tasmania
Private Bag 100
Hobart TAS 7001, Australia
christopher.lueg at utas.edu.au
CRICOS Provider Code: 00586B

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