Social Networking: July 2008 Archives

I've often highlighted the utterly worthless spam messages that seem to endlessly circulate on Facebook, usually warning not to add (insert random name here) because they're an evil hacker and will destroy your PC, kill your family and so on.

Well, today I came across another such message:


.....insert gag about them being related to Chuck here....but underneath that message was something far more interesting:


Sounds serious, right? It seems personal, because it's their friend missing which adds a little more urgency - they provide a contact email address to notify them on, and it mentions a real world example of someone who went missing and was found via the Internet.


Dig into this a little bit, and it all becomes clear quite quickly that something isn't quite right here. For starters, search for the missing persons name and there is no mention of him ever "going missing". Nothing on websites, news's like the whole thing is a work of fiction. In fact, buried in unrelated entries is the following snippet from a page on


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Check out the name of the "hacker" you shouldn't add. It seems someone has simply swiped the name and started pasting it into spam messages. A quick search of Facebook confirms the name and face go together.

A quick search for the email address listed as a contact brings up more interesting posts, this time posted to a personal blog:


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Same text....same reference to "real world" example....same email address. This person sure does get through a lot of missing friends! Note that this "missing person" chain letter has now stepped outside of Facebook and into other websites and networks.

At this point, you're probably wondering about the validity of the "real world" example, aren't you? Well, that would be a good idea! Notice they don't give any detail - it simply says "That is how the girl from Stevens Point was found by circulation of her picture on TV", and expect you to accept it as is. If you go searching for that phrase, it doesn't take long to find a page on regarding a missing girl hoax that stretches back some years:

"Please look at the picture, read what her father says, then forward his message on. Maybe if everyone passes this on, someone will see this child. That is how the girl from Stevens Point was found by circulation of her picture on tv..."

An email hoax, wrapped up and repackaged for the Facebook generation.

I've had a few people mention "odd things" happening when trying to install an application on Facebook called "Gridview". Well, I decided to try it out. On the install screen, you see this:


Makes sense so far. Here's the install screen where you agree to let the application loose on your profile:


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Once done, you see the following screen and this is where it all starts to go a bit wrong:


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Note that the application is ALREADY installed by this point, because the Gridview icon is on your list of current applications (highlighted by the red box on the left).

However, top right (also highlighted) is a box made to look like a standard Facebook "continue" button. When installing the application for the first time, this caught me out too - I didn't notice the app was already installed and (naturally enough) clicked the "continue" button, thinking there was something else I needed to do to complete the installation.

Imagine my confusion, then, when I was suddenly presented with this:


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A page asking me to download "Mothers Day E-cards", via IAC (creators of Smiley Central, amongst other things). By this point, you've left the Facebook network completely and are sitting on a page served up by an advertising network - go back to the Facebook screenshot above and check out the URL at the bottom of the browser. That's the actual destination of the "Continue" button.

That's a pretty sneaky tactic, if you ask me.

What needs to be established is, who is responsible for the placement of the fake "Continue" button? Is it the creator of the application, or is it legitimate advertising space on Facebook being subverted in a rather creative fashion by an advertising agency promoting IAC products?

I've tried reinstalling the application a few times, and the graphic displayed sometimes changes to more overt "this is an advert" style banners leading to other sites offering similar downloads / offers. Other applications installed don't seem to display sneaky adverts like that in the same location, but every application install is somewhat different so that's not really a conclusive answer.

At any rate, be wary of what you click on when installing Facebook applications...


About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Social Networking category from July 2008.

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Social Networking: August 2008 is the next archive.

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