Facebook new groups feature rife with abuse

Filed Under: Facebook, Privacy, Social networks

Facebook's newly announced groups feature may not be the boon for privacy some have predicted. Although only a small percentage of Facebook's users are upgraded to the new features it would appear people are exploring the possibilities in a rather aggressive way.

Create Group image

When the feature is added to your account you will see the image at right. Underneath groups in your left-hand navigation you see a new "Create Group" button. The idea behind this is that you can very quickly create a group like "Family" or "Friends from the pub" and have group chats, share pictures, etc.

The problem of course is that you can create a group with any name you want, and add any friends you want without any confirmation that they wish to be a member of said group. It would seem obvious that this is a terrible idea because when you are added to a group it will post a status update saying you joined it... And it didn't take long before someone used it on Zuck.

Zuckerberg added to NAMBLA group

To prove a point someone created a new group called NAMBLA. I won't describe it here, but suffice it to say it is a very offensive group which is frequently made fun of on "The Daily Show" and "South Park". Within a few hours someone had added TechCrunch's Michael Arrington without his permission, and it appears to show Mark the power of the new Facebook he added Mr. Zuckerberg.

Below you can see an example of the status message from a friend who was added to another unfortunate group....

Friend was added to Good things hitler did group

Paul Ducklin expressed his opinion that Facebook hadn't gone far enough in not making its privacy settings to opt-in. Not only have they not improved privacy they have created a somewhat gaping hole.

This could be abused in a very nasty way. Imagine you are traveling to the United States from overseas and your friends find it amusing to add you to a group that looks terrorist related. You might find a welcoming committee from the border patrol that you weren't expecting.

Facebook popup that you have been added

There doesn't seem to be a way to opt-out of this feature, although you are notified if you are logged into Facebook. As usual it would appear the ability to connect trumps your ability to decide what should be done with your identity when it comes to Facebook.

I will continue to explore the new options and post more as I determine what you can do with the other options.

For our advice on how to control the Facebook settings you can control please visit out Security Hub page that focuses on recommended Facebook settings.

Update: In Facebook's help center they have a question:

"Can I prevent people from adding me to a new group?".
The functionality of approving a group membership is not available. Similar to being tagged in a photo, you can only be added to a group by one of your friends. When a friend adds you to a group, a story in the group (and in News Feed for Open or Closed groups) will indicate that your friend has added you to a group.

Please keep in mind:

  • Only your friends can add you to groups.
  • When a friend adds you to a group, you'll get a notification right away.
  • You can leave a group anytime. To do so, just go to the group page and click "Leave Group" in the right-hand column. Once you leave a group, you can't be added by anyone else unless you explicitly request to be re-added.

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One Response to Facebook new groups feature rife with abuse

  1. snow fairy sim · 1058 days ago

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About the author

Chester Wisniewski is a Senior Security Advisor at Sophos Canada. He provides advice and insight into the latest threats for security and IT professionals with the goal of providing clear guidance on complex topics. You can follow Chester on Twitter as @chetwisniewski, on App.net as Chester, Chester Wisniewski on Google Plus or send him an email at chesterw@sophos.com.