Strategist, Speaker, Designer, Instigator

Unauthorised agents [post 29/100]

Toward the end of 2014, I received an email informing me that a friend and former colleague had joined a new professional networking site called RareBridge. When I clicked through, I found no information was available without sign-up. In a fit of uncharacteristic naiveté, I created an account. The next step was headlined, “Search for friends already on RareBridge” – curious as to whether any people I knew were on the site, I allowed access to one of my address books (I know, I know. I already admitted I was having a Stupid Day). Nobody I knew was registered, and I never send invitations unless a service is 200% awesome, so I skipped the invitation step and carried on to the main site. I saw nothing of interest there, so was gone fairly quickly. And that was the end of it.

Or so I thought.

Yesterday I began receiving messages from friends, mostly either screen shots or forwarded emails they’d received from RareBridge. They looked like this:

RareBridge sent this email to every single contact in my address book, without my permission.
RareBridge sent this email to every single contact in my address book, without my permission.

Let me be very very clear: I did not ask or authorise RareBridge to invite anyone to their service on my behalf. Just to double-check how bad the damage is, I checked a gmail address that I don’t often use, but which is in my main Google Contacts list, without any name or other information attached. And there it was in the Inbox – an email inviting that email address to join RareBridge on my behalf:

This entry in my address book didn't even have a name associated with it.
This entry in my address book didn’t even have a name associated with it.

That’s my confirmation that my fit of stupid did not extend to inviting anyone – even if I had, I would have kept it to a small circle, and most definitely not have included an address that I own.

I am furious. I am also embarrassed. But mostly furious. This is an act of fraud. What’s worse, this is the kind of fraud that the police are not interested in (because there’s no money involved) but which can be damaging to something that is every bit as much a currency to me as cold hard cash: my reputation. I’m very careful about making introductions, whether it’s to people or to services, and generally I ask for permission before giving out anyone’s email address, which makes this feel even worse. I’m totally gobsmacked, actually, that this sort of thing is still happening in 2015. What could the motive possibly be? To gain users in hopes of a sale?

I’ve already tweeted about this and am now wondering whether I should send an email to every single person in my address book, apologising. I (probably) won’t do it because the last thing I want is to inconvenience them even more. I have emailed Mr. Gregory to tell him what I think of his company, though. That was fun. Please feel free to do the same. His email is simon@rarebridge.com.