Facebook’s New Privacy Problem: Groups Created Under False Pretenses

Brad J. Ward is an online communciations coordinator at Butler University. Though he hails from a small academic institution, he’s unveiled a whale of a problem going on at Facebook (read, don’t skim, for the exciting conclusion).

As high school seniors across the country are being accepted into Universities for the Fall 2009 semester, groups for 2013 grads are popping up on the popular social network. There’s just one problem. It seems that one Patrick Kelly of Plano Senior High School is planning on attending a bunch of colleges – 500 to be exact. For that is how many 2013 groups he has created.

Ward rightly points out that the big problem here is that Patrick Kelly likely represents a data collection company that could end up being lifelong “friends” of millions of incoming freshman each year.

They also control the administrative privileges for each group.

But Brad Ward didn’t stop at just blogging about this problem. He’s got people talking on Twitter, organizing via Google Docs, and submitting Flickr pics regarding the problem.

The effort has identified other names associated with the group squatting including Ron Tressler and Justin Gaither, and he even has a company suspect: College Prowler. What a fitting name!

He even found an ad by College Prowler seeking unpaid interns to set up all this, as Ward rightly deems it, “dirty work.”

But get this: College Prowler responded by pulling the fake names that are associated with their company (Patrick Kelly was not, as it turns out) and pulling the administrative privileges. That is quite impressive. College Prowler says that they see social media as essential to their college guides business, but I think most of us would agree that they could go about social media in a different way.

Here’s a solution: College Prowler could create a community around its brand of college guides by identifying their Facebook groups with their brand. The group could be “College Prowler’s Guide to Butler University Class of 2013.”

So, College Prowler, and others interested in using social media, check out these posts from Search Engine Watch and sister site ClickZ to learn how to truly leverage social media to maximize those marketing dollars (and time!):

Facebook: Get Educated on the Hottest Social Media Platform
Understanding and Aligning the Value of Social Media
SocialTwist’s Tell-A-Friend Button Enables Word-of-Mouth and Social Media Marketing
A Social Media Marketing Primer
Social Media Link Building: From Fantasy to Reality
18-34 Year Old Responds to Email Marketing Over Social Network Marketing
How Blogs Drive More Sales Than Social Media Sites
93% of Americans Expect Companies to Have Social Media Presence
Using Twitter as an Education Tool
Less is More: What Social Media and Electronics Can Teach the Establishment
Go Slow With Video Ads in Social Media

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