Eightball and Thundercloud's RANT

Our Little Rant by Eightball & Thundercloud
From InfoAve Premium Issue #72
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Blind Faith

Maybe we're a little slow, but something came to our attention this past week that we really couldn't believe. I guess we should be prepared to believe about anything these days; still some things take us by surprise.

There's a "free" service called "Bebo". Many people are starting to use it. In fact several of their members sent emails to us asking us to "help them update their address book". It seemed odd to us that people we didn't even know would send letters to us asking us to help them update their address book. We realize we're in a lot of people's address books. But, we've never received letters from people asking us to help them update their address books.

OK, so what exactly is Bebo and what service do they provide. Their web site is not a fount of information. We have gleaned the following to give you an idea of what exactly it is that Bebo does:

"Wouldn't it be great to have an address book that was complete and always up-to-date? It takes just a few minutes of your time and your dream will come true."

Dream come true, eh? Oh really? Whose dream? Their dream? Our dream? Your dream?

After reading the Bebo TOU (Terms of Use) and Privacy Policy, I came away with the feeling that something isn't quite right here. It could be my wild imaginings. But, it sure seemed to me they have a strong desire to sell this service as soon as they can gather enough "users" to sell for a substantial sum. It's just my opinion. You're free to check out the TOU and Privacy Policy for yourself. More about these things later.

What really jumped out at us like a hungry tiger from the bush was the constant attempts by this company to acquire your Hotmail, Yahoo, or MSN password. It was rather blatant. And while you can choose not to give them your password, you won't be able to use their automatic address book updating feature; and that is the basic 'service' they provide. If you choose not to give them your Hotmail, Yahoo, or MSN password, don't worry; you'll be asked for it again and again.

I don't know how many of you use Microsoft Money or Quicken. But, those of you who do are aware that your Hotmail/MSN password is also your Microsoft Net Passport. With it your can access your MS Money account online. You can access a lot of your personal data with your Microsoft Net Passport. And, this is reason enough for you to NEVER give anyone your Hotmail or MSN email account password.

Many of you might also use a Hotmail, MSN or Yahoo account to access your private online banking, PayPal account, online stock trading account or other private and personal accounts on the Web. You also log into you Windows Messenger and MSN Messenger accounts using your Hotmail or MSN password. You log into Yahoo Messenger with you Yahoo email account password.

We were astonished at Bebo's repeated attempts to acquire our Hotmail, MSN, and Yahoo passwords. While they claim to be 100% trustworthy, you have absolutely nothing to go on but their word. Well they do have a few pictures of the founders along with their biographical information.(They even have a staff member who appears to be a young mother holding a small child in her arms. No doubt, this plays on the string of motherly trust in all of us.). Although they look quite nice, YOU SHOULD NEVER give out any of your email account passwords to anyone for ANY reason.And NO ONE should EVER be requesting your personal email passwords, EVER for any reason!

The potential for abuse here is endless. So much can be done if you have possession of email account usernames and passwords. To be brutally honest, it's worth a ton of money. If you give out your password you're going on blind faith that these people are who they say they are and they will not use your information for anything other than what they say they will. Additionally, there seems to be some sense when reading the Privacy Policy that this company might be sold. While they say they will endeavor to ensure the purchaser will continue abide by the current Privacy Policy (which is quite creatively written) they make no guarantees. Valid email addresses are worth money to email marketers. A lot of valid email addresses are worth a lot of money. Email passwords would be a gold mine to spammers. Everyone always has their own best interest at heart. When it came down to putting millions of dollars in their bank accounts or your privacy, which do you think they'd choose if the opportunity to sell presented itself.

It is incredible to us that every day this site is potentially feasting on the unsuspecting; who going on nothing but blind faith, voluntarily give these people their Hotmail, Yahoo, or MSN email account password.

Bebo might very well mean what they say. Their Privacy Policy is very creative. Consider these passages from the Bebo Privacy Policy (red highlighting is ours):

"...Does Bebo sell my information to third parties?

As a matter of policy, we do not sell, rent or lend any of your personal information to third parties other than in accordance with this policy without your consent. However, the following describes some of the ways that your personal information may be used in the normal routine to provide our range of services to you.

Service Management.
We use your personal information to provide the services you request. We use your personal information to: troubleshoot problems; measure consumer interest in our services, inform you about offers, products, services, and updates; customize your experience; detect and protect us against error, fraud and other criminal activity; enforce our Terms of Use; and as otherwise described to you at the time of collection.

You agree that we may use personal information about you to improve our marketing and promotional efforts, to analyze site usage, improve our content and product offerings, and customize the Site's content, layout, and services. These uses improve the Site and better tailor it to meet your needs, so as to provide you with a smooth, efficient, safe and customized experience while using the Site.

You agree that we may use your personal information to contact you and deliver information to you that, in some cases, are targeted to your interests, such as targeted banner advertisements, administrative notices, product offerings, and communications relevant to your use of the Site. By accepting the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, you expressly agree to receive this information. You may make changes to your email notification preferences at any time....

"...Acquisition. It is possible that as we continue to develop our website and our business, Bebo's service and/or related assets might be acquired. Notwithstanding any provision in this policy to the contrary, in event of a merger or acquisition, your personal information may be transferred to the acquiring entity, and become subject to the acquirer's data practices...."

Our advice is to NEVER provide your email account passwords to anyone for any reason. NO ONE should EVER be asking for your email account passwords; not EVER, not for ANY reason. But, if you don't provide Bebo with your Yahoo, MSN, or Hotmail account password their service will not work as described. And, you'll be asked often to provide your email account password. While Bebo may be the most honest site that ever existed, the potential for abuse by an entity  holding this sort of information is endless. The monetary value of this kind of information (valid email addresses, names, addresses, phone numbers, cell phone numbers and email account passwords) is tremendous. And, where the monetary value is high the temptation is high.

So, in summary, this company:

  • Wants your Yahoo, MSN or Hotmail Email Password

  • Will send you regular reminders asking for it again and again, if you fail to provide it

  • Promises not to use this information and to respect your privacy (You must have "blind faith".)

  • States if they sell you are at the mercy of whoever buys them. In other words - Any company that buys them can do anything they want with your personal/private information.

By gathering such a wealth of YOUR personal information, including email account passwords (which are required for the service to work as described) Bebo is assembling a database which could well be worth a fortune to marketing companies and others interested in mass email marketing. Blind faith is what you're going on if you join this service and provide them with your private email account passwords. The potential for abuse far outweighs the minimal benefits of such a service. You should NEVER give your email account passwords to ANYONE for ANY reason and NO ONE should ever be asking your for your email account passwords.

Bebo states: "Wouldn't it be great to have an address book that was complete and always up-to-date? It takes just a few minutes of your time and your dream will come true."

No thanks, Bebo. I'll keep my own address book up-to-date and do my part to make sure your dream doesn't come true.

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