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

Conor Schaefer conor.schaefer at gmail.com
Tue Oct 2 23:51:03 PDT 2007

Yes, I'm sure that there is a motivation for them to avoid getting their 
hands dirty. But they do operate on shaky ground in terms of better ways 
to deal with the problem. For instance, they obviously cannot e-mail the 
poor typist of a user who mistakenly (we hope) signed up using your 
e-mail address.

What they /could /do, however, since that user would likely be logging 
on again in the near future, seeing as it's a young account, is post a 
notice upon login saying that they've received a complaint of 
unauthorized e-mail address usage. They could then notify the user that 
the account is being deleted, or they could offer the user the option of 
providing a new e-mail address, one which they would hopefully confirm!

If the new user does not return to log in within seven days, say, the 
account will be suspended, which the user will learn of at next login. 
During this seven day period, the account will be removed from e-mail 
notifications, meaning the person who lodged the complaint will not be 
further inconvenienced.

While these are certainly more diplomatic, and yes, bothersome, methods, 
I suspect a contributing factor in a company's decision is culpability. 
You've already noted that they should have employed a confirmation field 
on their signup page (have you indeed confirmed that they don't use 
one?). By shifting the onus of responsibility onto the plaintiff, they 
not only save themselves some work, but they also neatly sidestep ugly 
situations such as suspending accounts. They can just invoke the rule 
that the owner of the e-mail address has final authority (on the user 
end of things) over the profile, and that's something the new user who 
signed up must have understood, and it was unfortunate that an incorrect 
e-mail address was used.

But I'll say again that I agree companies like this are always trying to 
avoid getting things done.


Christopher Lueg wrote:
> 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
> christopher

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