Goodbye Grouply

I obtained permission from the original author of this post.

The original author asked that I insert the foreword shown below.
Foreword from the original author:

I referred to Grouply as having “super-owner” / back-door access to
Yahoo! Groups.  That may not be technically correct, or may well be
perceived as incorrect by technical experts.  As far as I know and
understand, the access that Grouply has is caused by members
divulging their Yahoo! IDs and passwords to Grouply, not by some
special arrangement between Grouply and Yahoo! (though such an
arrangement may exist also; I do not know).  While it is my opinion
that members surrendering their confidential passwords in this way is
detrimental to their respective Yahoo! Groups’ best interests, and
their own personal interests, and the interests of many YG
owners/moderators, so far Yahoo!’s apparent silence on the matter
seems to indicate that they do not oppose it, despite the Yahoo!
Terms of Service clearly explicit requirement that members preserve
the confidentiality of their passwords.  Grouply’s silence (as far as
I have seen) on this assertion that they have “super-owner” or back
door access granted them by Yahoo! is also disconcerting to me.

Original post in its entirety:

From the publicly accessible message archive at:

EL-M Moderators: this is my last post on the Grouply topic, so please
indulge me this one more time.

This message below from Mark Robins settles it for me.

Mark, you refer to your service as an email aggregator, but my
groups’ activities are not just an email service.  (By the way, are
you going to start scraping … er, I mean, aggregating … hotmail
too, being just an email aggregator?)  My groups are a social
networking web site service that happens to have email-driven
features.  So you’re not just aggregating email.  You’re scraping web
site content without the permission of the owner (well, that is,
unless Yahoo! gave it to you without telling me), and you obviously
have super-owner access powers that you should not have, for which I
fault Yahoo!, now the reason I’m going back on the market for a
different group service, even if I have to pay an annual fee to get a
truly secure one.

You refer to this matter as your subscribers choosing to have “their”
email aggregated.  That is so contrary to the reality of my groups’
configurations and membership terms that now I can’t help but see the
Grouply concept as delusional.

The content of my restricted group message archive is not THEIR
email.  They don’t own it the way they own private correspondence. 
It is restricted-access web site content that they may receive VIA
email, under terms and conditions established for them by Yahoo! and
me, but the content itself is private, copyrighted by its authors
under law, and restricted from retransmission by the Yahoo! TOS and
by my groups’ internal rules.  It is web site CONTENT before it
is “email,” and my contract with Yahoo! gives me control of that
content in many ways, including ones you seem to think I should
surrender to you.

The members of my group don’t own that content except for the
postings that they write.  They have no right to retransmit that
content to your web site, which is not at all the same as their
privately keeping copies of group postings in private archives in
their private email accounts.

You have no legitimate right to have super-owner back-door access to
fiddle with the controls on my group’s content.  Apparently Yahoo!
has given you that power, or allowed it through neglect, but it does
not make it right, and you don’t seem to care about what’s right, now
that I see you rationalizing away all the real concerns by referring
to it as merely email aggregation.

The group members never had permission in the past (under the Yahoo!
TOS and my groups’ internal rules) to retransmit our restricted
archives to other web sites, so they don’t have any right to give YOU
permission to do it.  And now I will stop them, and make them
understand that if they persist in trying, they will be banned, and I
track their IP addresses so they can’t hide.

I have only just so much time to investigate a security breach before
I decide I have to prevent it from getting worse, or being allowed to
happen again.

You are rationalizing that I should accept your super-owner access to
my group, where you have the ability to override owner controls such
as prohibiting access to my restricted message archive for non-
approved/pending non-members.  Your having now shut that back door to
those pending members doesn’t mean as much to me as the fact that you
had the ability to open it in the first place.  NO EXTERNAL EMAIL
passwords to override the fundamental design and structure of my
groups established under a contract with Yahoo! and constituting part
of the basis for a covenant between my groups’ members and me about
how they get to use my groups’ services.  Along comes Grouply
rewriting the terms of the agreements I have in place with my groups’
members and with Yahoo!?  No thanks.

Yahoo!’s silence on the matter is very suspicious.

Soon, after I consult with my attorney about how to get it “just
right,” or maybe have him write the letters for me, formal complaints
will be filed in hard copy with the Federal Trade Commission and my
congressman (about the spamming, or what I suppose is really more
like conspiracy to violate the U.S. CAN SPAM Act of 2003, or being an
accomplice to the violation, since Grouply only gives its users the
spamming gun, but doesn’t pull the trigger, though they remove the
safety lock from the trigger), and with Yahoo (about the super-owner
back door access), and reported to national press media.

No user of Grouply will be allowed to be a member of any of my groups
from now on, and I will do whatever it takes to ensure that,
including requiring that before they are allowed to join, or to
maintain current memberships, they will have to agree to my new No-
Grouply (or UnGrouply) policy in writing.  It won’t take long to
establish this, and I’ve dealt with bigger problems that took more
work than this will take.  I already have a member policy acceptance
process like that in place for my biggest, most important group. 
Nobody gets into my groups without accepting the group rules in
writing before approval … not even Grouply users backed by a
company with special access to the group through a back door.

This is not the first time that I abolished external corporate
interference in my groups.  It will be easier to do the second time
around, and I’ll prepare better for next time.

The only thing that will satisfy me now is for Yahoo! to announce
that they have turned off access for Grouply (and all other such
services) and made it a strictly opt-in feature in the Management
tools of Yahoo! Groups, available only to owners to choose to enable
as a feature.  And I would not enable it in any of my groups.

It’s time for a formally constituted group owners association with a
good legal team and press team working for it.

Again I thank EL-M for hosting this discussion.  It was very
important, and you did a great job.  Thank you.

Goodbye, Grouply.


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