Email Thursday – Facebook Groups: No Opt-in Option



So Facebook is at it yet again, this time rolling out an update called New Groups. For those of you who have used Google Groups, you will be familiar with this service. For those not indoctrinated, the groups function allows you to essentially set up a group of your friends and by sending a message to the group, everyone in the group is notified. Useful for informal kickball teams, book clubs and families, groups seems to have something going for it. But there is an issue surrounding this feature and that is the subject of today’s blog post.

The problem with new groups is that there is no opt-in feature. Groups allows you to add any or all of your friends without their permission and any message you post to the group turns into an email in the inbox of all users in that group. This equates to a default opt-in resulting in a potentially dramatic increase in emails you didn’t sign up for. Does this amount to SPAM? I guess that’s something for each user to decide. Personally, I would not want to be bombarded by even MORE facebook emails than I receive now. In addition, you don’t even need to be logged into facebook for this new function to be utilized. This is because you can send an email to the group and that email turns into a group post which is then emailed to everyone. To me, it feels like receiving an email version of every comment made in a family conversation around the dinner table. Not necessary.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of groups and I even approve of the implementation except for the email part of it. As an email guy, here’s what I’d like to see

  1. No implicit opt-in
  2. Make it like a friend request: add the person to the group but send them an invite rather than just adding them
  3. If you are able to just add them, at least send them a notification letting them know what they will be receiving and include a the ability to opt-out of emails from the group

In general, I like this but this is pretty typical when it comes to the Facebook approach to privacy: that they know what is best and your privacy and choices aren’t implicitly yours. If Facebook keeps on making assumptions like this, they will soon see the backlash increase and, potentially, see users migrate enmasse away from the worlds largest social network.