Lawyer-Up

February 18, 2008

Ungrouply Behavior,

I posted this message in the GI group in response to Grouply’s assertion that they “had lawyers review the Yahoo TOS to make sure we would be ok.”

You have my permission to post this in Ungrouply Behavior.  The original is at:
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/GrouplyImprovements/message/722

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Enron’s chiefs had lawyers, too, who fought hard to defend them.  Not to compare Grouply’s tiny place in the world to theirs, or Grouply’s activities to theirs, but the argument that lawyers said it is okay means almost nothing to me.

Case in point:

The Freecycle Network, Inc. (TFN), which also has a lawyer reviewing its practices (a respectable law firm, as I understand it), said repeatedly (including directly to me personally) that it had Yahoo’s okay for their YG message aggregation scheme (“Finder”), until Yahoo publicly pronounced the technique involved to be contrary to their TOS.  That came only after an outcry from YG members and moderators, and many complaints filed about it, and even then not before national press media gave attention to the matter.  Prior to that, for a long time (more than a year as I recall), the scheme was in place and operating successfully without visible interference from Yahoo.  Once Yahoo became convinced that it was a problem, and pronounced on the matter, TFN immediately took its revenue-generating freecyclefinder.org off the web, despite all the prior lawyerly claims made by TFN that it did not violate Yahoo’s TOS, operated with Yahoo’s knowledge, and allegedly even with their consent.  Grouply’s similar lawyer-reviewed claim of TOS compliance is unconvincing to me.

In their public statement made recently on third party access issues, so far clearly Yahoo is leaving the matter to the discretion of moderators, advising them to do what they think is best for their groups regarding membership eligibility of YG users connected with or enabling access of third parties.

As a group owner-moderator responsible for working to ensure TOS compliance in and by my group, I find that Grouply subscribers are complicit, whether willfully or not, in at least an end-run around certain provisions of the Yahoo TOS, if not directly violating it.  I find that they participate in enabling iGroup, Inc. to abrogate aspects of the spirit and the letter of the Yahoo TOS.  I find that Grouply encourages behaviors contrary to my understanding of the spirit of the Yahoo TOS.  Access and usage via the Grouply method also infringes on previously established internal policies of my groups.

Therefore, members are not allowed to use the Grouply method to access my groups.  There are so few of them, their not being allowed to use their Grouply account to access my group has no effect on the mission effectiveness of my groups anyway, but the presence of just one of them using Grouply does involve significant risks, in my view.  Grouply subscribers otherwise eligible for membership are welcome to participate in my groups, just not via the Grouply.com service, or any other like it.  Not being allowed to use Grouply does not prevent or inhibit their full participation in the missions of my groups, in well established, reliably convenient ways provided by Yahoo!.


Trust me, please?

February 18, 2008
[Posted here by permission of the author.]
Let’s see, so far we have at least these major screw-ups:
– Putting a loaded spam gun into the hands of fans with the enticement of a recruitment contest awarding Nintendo Wii and iPod, and refusing to turn off the spam machine fun-gun, under the silly notion that spam only once per group is not still spam.
– Sending spam with the “tell-a-friend” feature that delivers a message with a corrupted return address.  The “friend” receives not just an advertisement for Grouply, with Grouply’s corporate logo in it, emphasizing that it is commercial email, but also a hotlink to “become my friend” in grouply.com, and the return address is truncated and contains data corruption that makes it unidentifiable and unusable as a valid email address.  I have proof of this happening, courtesy of an actual, real, true friend who received it.  So that spam doesn’t have an identifiable source as being from a “friend.”
– Granting message archive access to non-members while they sit in the pending member queue.  I remember when they “fixed” that security breach, people asked things like, “How do we know you haven’t or won’t create more problems like this with your back door access caused by an irresponsibly premature public beta release promoted by spam?”  Sure enough, there are more …
– Granting message archive access to members in groups where the archive is set to mods only or is even turned off altogether.

– Failing to immediately purge archives of groups that have used their wobbly trial release of an opt-out owner blocking scheme.  This has been verified as fact.  Even a tiny test group that had only ONE message in it did not get purged after the block was turned on.  This was verified by turning the block off and going back in to see what Grouply had in its archive.  A message deleted from the YG archive (the only message in that archive) eight days earlier still existed in Grouply’s mirror archive.  Grouply members in the group are able to edit the subject line of the old message inside Grouply’s archive, comment on it, and send it off to other people both inside and outside of Grouply’s system, even repost it back to the group if they wanted to.

– Rationalizing away the obvious intrusion perpetrated on owner control of their groups by saying it’s just an email aggregator providing members another way to see data they already had access to.

“Trust me, I have TrustE certification.”
“Trust me, my lawyer told me you could.”