Social network privacy and Jigsaw

I just received this email from Jigsaw:

> Dear Jigsaw Beta Member,
>
> Our Beta Program ended on August 13th and we’ve had a great response
> to the PAY or PLAY options. The Jigsaw community continues to grow
> rapidly, and we now have over 105,000 contacts.
>
> Remember, if you PLAY (and add 25 contacts to Jigsaw per month), you
> can continue to use the service for FREE. For more details, go to:
> http://www.jigsaw.com
>
>etc. etc. etc.

Unfortunately, the email was sent showing all the emails of the perhaps 500 recipients, instead of using a BCC. So every recipient could see the emails of every other recipient. Several recipients sent very silly responses to the entire list saying, “I’m a broker in California, here’s what I do.”

To put it mildly, this does not promote confidence in social network software.

To Jigsaw’s credit, they at least sent a follow up email (with a BCC) apologizing. I do not believe that Orkut ever apologized for their gaffe (orkut spam). In fact, Orkut said that they had to send their messages, even three months late.

Jigsaw’s error was one of carelessness, not deliberate. By contrast, the Orkut incident was a baked-in design problem.

ZeroDegrees also has received some flack for social network spam (“SNAM”) (see Stowe Boyd’s experience with ZeroDegrees ). ZeroDegrees (and some other social network systems) allows users the option of inviting every single person in their address book. As a result, some users (e.g., Stowe Boyd) have accidentally sent invitations to everyone whom they’ve ever traded emails with, including their own blog.

I understand ZD’s argument that users had explicitly opted to send out emails to their whole address book. However, I suggest that giving users the option to do something which only a very small percentage really should do is not good user interface design.

It is doubly imperative for social networking companies to be careful around these issues. Given recent crackdowns on spam, spamming people is asking for trouble. The flow of extra email that social software systems are generating is already damaging the industry.

UPDATE: Jas Dhilon (CEO of ZeroDegrees) called, and said that he personally sent emails to everyone of his firm’s clients’ contacts who accidentally got SNAMed, apologizing to those people.