Is Facebook using invitation email addresses for sign-up spam?

15 April 2009

Digg it Facebook is one of those "web 2.0" brands that everyone seems to trust and thus not think twice when giving them personal details and info. However, the public outrage over the Terms of Service update (that would have given Facebook perpetual ownership of your data and photos) and the year old Beacon debacle (that would track and publish your shopping habits) have done some damage to Facebook's privacy reputation.

It now seems that Facebook are using the email data collected from friend invites to later spam those addresses with more Facebook marketing emails.

I have a personal email account that has received a few Facebook invites from friends over the years. I've never signed up to Facebook from or with that email so there is no connection between Facebook and that personal email except from those old invites. I have never given Facebook that email or signed up to any of their services with that email address.

Despite never giving the info to Facebook I've now received an email from them titled, "Check out photos of your friends on Facebook". The email then goes on:

Here are just a few things your friends have been up to while you were gone:

{Photos and status updates from those who sent previous invitations}

Facebook is a great place to keep in touch with friends, post photos, videos and create events. But first you need to join! Sign up today to create a profile and connect with the people you know.

The Facebook Team

To sign up for Facebook, follow the link below:"

The email does have an unsubscribe link at the bottom but does it matter? If I have never given Facebook my email, I have never opted-in nor had the chance to opt-out of these Facebook marketing emails.

Does anyone know if this type of unsolicited marketing email is even legal in the UK? Does anyone inviting friends realise that Facebook are going to continually spam them for months or years?

Thanks to appscout for the pic

TOPICS:   Social Media   Privacy


  • The B.
    Don't expect the information commissioner to do anything about it.
  • Justin A.
    How about those small ads to the side of each page which in some cases seem to know how old I am? E.g. "Are you 38? Get yourself a girlfriend. Visit such and such dating site." So Facebook are sharing my personal details with their advertisers as well. My info page doesn't even mention which year i was born as I've made that private but Facebook give that private detail away regardless!
  • Jeffpro
    facebook allows adverisers to target particular demographics. so an advertiser will say 'send this ad to men aged 30-35 who live in london and are single' and facebook will target them.
  • Mac H.
    Dear facebook, I have discovered several severe holes in the site that should have been caught by Quality Assurance, but somehow have slipped through and remain on the site. These are not security holes, but holes that are liable to slowly erode the face of facebook and dissolve confidence in the product by many members and most hurtful, non-members. In the invite feature of fb, I accidentally accepted the fb feature to invite every single person that I have every emailed, CCed, or BCed in my entire life from Gmail. (hmm, a warning message would have been nice, once clicked, surely I would not have wanted to do that.) Once clicked, I immediately realized my mistake. After the initial embarrassment of inviting my whole world, I got over it as "oh well, my mistake." However, no daily email spam is sent out to these contacts, harassing that they join! Many unpleasant folks have contacted me and are very irritated at me and fb! I found a way in fb to remove all of these accidental invites, but it conveniently doesn't seem to work correctly. The following process/path I used and the error that I was confronted with: facebook > friends > invite friends > View all invitations > Select: Not Yet Joined :: Popup Delete Entries? "Are you sure you want to delete these 100 entries from your Invitation History?" Delete Oops! "Something went wrong. We're working on getting this fixed as soon as we can. You may be able to try again." OK Could somebody else or a team of people, try hard to improve this site with very simple enhancements? Update: fb requires you delete these invites one by one. Deleted. However, here it is a week later and the weekly fb spam has been sent out to all of the formerly invited contacts again!!! What a joke! Horrible business practice!!
  • Jim C.
    Just found out that if you use the Share button under a photo or something and give an e-mail address then that e-mail address will show up on the list of people you have invited to Facebook AND they will start to automatically send "Reminder: Jim invited you to join Facebook..." spam! I just wanted to share something, not invite the person to FB and certainly not have FB spam them!!!! Scumbags...
  • Andre R.
    Bastards! They are spamming all my 2000 contacts using my name! And there's no way to talk with them. All user help is automatic. I think im gonna delete my account. There's no other way, i'm really embarassed of being acused of spamming people.
  • Facebook B.
    [...] reported on Facebook’s email invitation spam before and now a Bitterwallet reader flags the info that Facebook have become even more aggressive [...]
  • Catherine
    Yep, just discovered Facebook is inviting people on my "behalf" who I never intended to invite. Grrrrrr. If it is going to send invitations without my consent, it could at least warn me !
  • Laura
    I am having this exact problem! and its incredibly humilating as I have very important clients getting emailed from bloody Facebook saying I have asked them to join!! How dare they do this in MY name. Surely there must be some way to stop this. Its basically spamming in my name.
  • Laura
    Also the worrying thing is how are they getting these email addresses? I mean, the people getting annoyed at me have nothing to do with my Facebook account. The only thing I can think of is when I have sent an email from Facebook to one person in particular saying look at my photos, Facebook have remembered this email address and then spammed it in MY name!! I will have to delete my account.. its the only way.
  • LB
    Facebook is also sending invites on my behalf to all of my contacts from gmail. It's so embarrassing and I can't figure out how to stop it. It's making the FB experience pretty miserable for me and my contacts. Also, I feel like FB was less than upfront about how they'd take my contacts and invite ALL of them. I honestly feel tricked by FB in giving them access to my gmail account. If I would have known they'd start spamming everyone in my name I'd never have done it. This is a bad business practice and I feel embarrassed because people assume I'm dying for their "friendship"!
  • Herc
    Ok here is what is happening, ifg you have a gmail acocunt but do not yet have faceboo,, gmail is giving out all the email addresses from every bit of any gmail you have ever sent or uloaded and facebook is matching this with the same information of existing facebook users and other gmail users and sending out invites. I uploaded a 4 gig outlook pst file to gmail with over 10 years of data and guess what, people i sent emails to 7 years ago got a facebook invite from me and I dont even have a facebook account on this email. I actually seeded the pst file with emails that come back to me and guess what i got the invityes. It is now blatanntly obvuious that gmail and facebook are sharing email addresses. Your privacy and that of others has noe been copromised.
  • Tung
    [..]The email does have an unsubscribe link at the bottom but does it matter? [..] Does unsubscribe link work? or even lock the account will FB stop spamming? I’m really embarassed of spamming to some importance people. :((. Every week it send a invitation email.
  • Seb
    I have the same problem. They are spamming all of my contacts; even the ones that are hidden multi-user adresses. I tried to create a fake new gmail account and now keep track if it send to the new, old or both of the accounts. Thinking of closing down my FB account.
  • Alex
    This just happened to me today - I thought I was just inviting a couple of people from my Gmail contacts to be Facebook friends, but now Facebook has spammed EVERY SINGLE email address in my contacts list with this B.S. "Check out my photos in Facebook" message. It has already pissed off a few people and one of them is me! I'm going to set up some kind of auto-responder to apologize to people, but what a pain in the ass!
  • Darick C.
    To any embarrassed FB Family and or interested other parties: I have the answer to all our now past questions & concerns about the spamming from FB on our prior unintentionally invited friends. JUST go to FRIENDS then INVITE FRIENDS and once option is there just view all invited friends and from that list u can cancelled the invitation that has been sent before. I'm just the messenger please use this info A.S.A.P. . . . if this information shall turn up to be redundant, please ignore. PPL Help PPL :-D
  • susan
    I've finally figured out how to stop this from happening: Friends > Invite friends> Import email adresses > "Facebook will not store your password. Learn More." click "learn more" > Click "this page" > click "REMOVE"
  • Grant
    I was still having this problem in 3/2010 - the above suggestions FINALLY got me there... one trick... look where you can do a dropdown to select "All"... but realize that only the 100 on the page will be selected... I was spamming the hell out of 236 people and fb wanted me to keep doing it... wankers. 3 times through of selecting all on the page and my hell was finally over.
  • Kim-Anh
    Problem is that FB has (once agin!) changed and there is not this dropdown option anymore. I htink I did find the solution by blocking FB as a third party site on my gmail account. See finger crossed!
  • Kim-Anh
    Actually, with the new FB go to: home -> connect with friends (invite frineds to join FB) -> view all invites then delate, page per page. I had 567 invitations pending ... how embarrasing is that! :s
  • DC
    Does anyone know how often these "Reminders" are sent out? Once a month? Twice a year? Is there a pattern? Or, are they generated randomly? In other words, how often was [email protected] getting my reminder to join facebook? Do these automated reminders have a pattern?
  • jubillix
  • annoyed
    I think this can be stopped with a class action lawsuit against Facebook. I'M TIRED OF THEIR REMINDERS.
  • annoyed
    Yes. That's me again. Check this post as well Nice video with an explanation of how to stop the invites. But the point is this. These reminders are SPAM sent by Facebook. Well. I'm tired. And I decided to send to the Facebook team, the executives, a nice letter. So far no response. If I don't have a Facebook account, the nice procedures that are explained around don't apply. And I don't think I have to tell my friends to follow that. The thruth is that Facebook created a monster machine to send that SPAM masked as 'invitations' or 'reminders'. Without user's knowledge. Even worse. The reminder comes from a Facebook email acoount. A bogus one. So, if that comes from my friend, where is his/her email address? So, yes. This is SPAM. And I'm shocked seeing in the video in the link above that without his knowledge, Facebook had scheduled 1252 invitations!! You can read my post -and the email I sent to Facebook- here : or short link here
  • David
    As a test, I canceled my original account. Now have an account with a new e-mail address ONLY used for Facebook. I am now getting spam not only including invitations, but also from outside commercial sites. I have only the most basic profile information, sharing nothing. It is infuriating that this two-bit outfit would sell member information and not even allow an opt-out. I wanted to try Facebook again since many in my family don't communicate otherwise. I think that at this point, I'll broadcast a "sorry, but you lose" message to them and then once again, and this time permanently, dump Farcebook.
  • clarence w.
    I want to stop invites from my email account takes to long for me to just check my mail cause of all the invites to be friendsl
  • mohamed
    im want email to faecbook
  • Dewan
    I went to friends and saw the page where it sends invite and cancelled all imported contacts. They showed a page where it shows when it last send a reminder and I just cancelled all reminders.
  • Simon
    I just got an invite request from my own facebook account asking me to join - apparently I sent myself a friend request! I went through to see how many invites were sent out on my behalf and facebook tells me I've not sent any invites out!
  • Simon
  • wth?!
    +1: Facebook mail informes me that "I" just invited myself at my gmail address to join facebook!!! Previously I received an invite from a girl who confirmed not having sent me any invites. Then I received a similar email from a FB group I never had any contact with. I went to Friends > Find friends > Manage imported contacts (direct link is - and to my shock, I found 30+ people listed whom I already sent invitations to (and a lot more who were still on the death row to receive one), next to the already invited email addresses was a "Send reminder" button and then a date. All dated before 2010, so this must be the date of the first invitation as the reminders are from September 2012 and June 2013. Since the date is unreliable, I am now extra-worried, as the next address on the list is my recently deceased friend's gmail that might still be maintained by her best friend to inform the still writing contacts that she is not here anymore. Just how many ways can this spamming hurt other people's feelings or the reputation of the alleged inviter person? I am also wondering what happens if the person invited joins? Will they be able to be added as friends automatically without my knowledge? Apparently they also sent invitations to some of my contacts' company email addresses, including people I had strictly formal relationship with. I am just reporting this to FB via clicking on the little 'editaccount' wheel(/flower?) icon in the upper right corner while at So wheel > Help > Report a problem > Report a problem, which brings up a popup window. Suggest writing it in notepad, etc. then pasting it into the box, as it just suddenly deleted my input while still writing asking me to login?! And I was not even logged out. Maybe if many people do the same we can achieve a change but I might be too optimistic. Or is there an ombudsman dealing with such issues? Is facebook so low on new user numbers or so many leave that they are this desperate to get some more? NOTE: At the bottom of the reminder emails there is a small note: "This message was sent to [email protected] If you don't want to receive these emails from Facebook in the future or have your email address used for friend suggestions, please unsubscribe." So steps for me: 1) report to FB after creating the screenshots 2) delete all contacts from that imported list 3) unsubscribe I hope this helps some more people, sorry for the long post.
  • wth?!
    Update to my prev post: Sent FB the "bug report" with screenshots. Received automated pop up message, saying: "We cannot respond individually to each report, but we would like you to know that your report will be used to improve Facebook." Among other questions, I asked them to confirm to how many addresses were reminder emails sent today and why these emails are an opt-out rather than an opt-in feature as they damage relationships. Then I inquired and tested with one of my contacts on the list of already "invited". She did not receive a similar reminder mail from FB today - so now I manually sent her a reminder. The date in the managed imported contacts list changed this time to current date while it was still the same old one at the email I received today. So the reminder email I received was not initiated manually from this list, not all the contacts received a reminder today, and maybe it had nothing to do with this list at all and the emails are sent using another database.
  • wth?!
    Edited my first post as it was probably too long to be published: Facebook mail informs me that "I" just invited myself at my gmail address to join facebook. Previously I received an invite from a girl who confirmed not having sent me any invites. Then I received a similar email from a FB group I never had any contact with. At Friends > Find friends > Manage imported contacts (direct link is I found 30+ people listed whom I already "sent" invitations to, next to the already invited email addresses was a "Send reminder" button and then a date. All dated before 2010, so initially I thought, the dates must be the dates of the first invitation as the reminders are from September 2012 and June 2013. After the test I described in my later post (the one before this one in the thread), I am now wondering if facebook uses another database to target prospects without the account owner's knowledge (is a gmail coop to share and use our data possible?) / does not update the list with the automated (?) reminder emails' correct date. Needless to say that the girl who invited my address could not be on this list as I got to know her much later than any of the dates on that list. I reported the above to FB via clicking on the little 'editaccount' wheel icon in the upper right corner while at So wheel > Help > Report a problem > Report a problem, which brings up a popup window. Pls see results in above post again.

What do you think?

Connect with Facebook, Twitter, or just enter your email to sign in and comment.

Your comment