On October 7, 2010, Facebook opened up the Facebook groups feature to allow anyone with a Facebook account to arbitrarily add any other Facebook user that the person is "friends" with (meaning they have a connection on Facebook) to any group he or she chooses without asking first. In other words, beware of your Facebook "friends" adding you to random groups that you've never heard of or have no interest in.
News of the new feature spread quickly across the Internet, as PCWorld reported, "when technology blogger Michael Arrington, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis all found themselves added to a group called NAMBLA. It wasn't immediately clear what this page was set up for, but NAMBLA is an acronym for the completely unsavory North American Man/Boy Love Association."
Calacanis sent an email to Zuckerberg stating he was concerned to find himself added to a Facebook group without having the chance to opt-in first. It turned out that Zuckerberg was added to the group by Arrington who typed in Zuckerberg's name (who is his Facebook friend) and clicked a button to test the new group feature out. He learned that what he suspected was true -- anyone could arbitrarily add any friend to any group. Zuckerberg quickly removed himself from the group, and Arrington found himself no longer able to add Zuckerberg to any other groups.
So what is really happening with the Facebook groups feature that you need to be aware of as a Facebook user? The following points outline what you need to know from the information available to users:
- Anyone that you are friends with on Facebook can add you to any group they belong to.
- Once you learn that you've been added to a group that you don't want to be a member of, you can leave the group. No one will be able to add you to that specific group again without your permission.
- Once you've been added to a group, that activity will appear in your Facebook wall, but you can delete that update. However, you cannot delete the update from your Facebook feed. You can deny the Groups application permission to publish stories to your Facebook wall in order to ensure such updates don't publish on your wall or feed. Keep in mind, however, doing so means no content from any of your groups will publish on your wall. To deny group updates and notifications from publishing on your Facebook wall and feed, click on the Account link in the top-right navigation bar when you're logged into your Facebook account, and then select the Application Settings link from the drop-down menu. Find the Groups application in the list provided, and click the Groups Edit Settings link. A dialogue box opens where you need to click on the Additional Permissions tab at the top of the dialogue box. Next, make sure the box next to "publish content to my wall" is unchecked. Finally, click on the Okay button to save your changes.
- If necessary, you can block friends or remove friends who add you to groups without your permission, so they can't do so again.
Unfortunately, there is no way, at the time of this article's writing, to block friends from adding you to groups without asking your permission first under the new Facebook groups feature, as the Facebook Help documentation explains.