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Without His Consent, Facebook Founder Added to New 'NAMBLA' Group

Arrington, Zuckerberg in NAMBLA group

Well known tech writer Michael Arrington (from blog TechCrunch) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg were unwittingly added to a "NAMBLA" group on Facebook, thanks to a new Groups feature.Sophos

Groucho Marx said he didn't want to belong to any club that would accept people like him as a member. But on Facebook, you may not have a choice.

Facebook's new Groups function lets you join together a few connected friends, freeing your main news feed of their musings. Want to chat about running, "Twilight," or your favorite brand of clothing? Invite a few friends and take it to a Group.

Here's the thing: The people you invite to an open Group are automatically members; they don't have to accept. 

That's fine if you are creating Groups in good faith, but what about the inevitable pranksters who create questionable Groups and automatically enroll some of their (sometimes famous) friends?

That trick was outlined in a recent blog post from Sophos' Chester Wisniewski, who found that someone had created a Group for NAMBLA (essentially a pro-pedophile group), and added their "friend," TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington. Arrington then allegedly added Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. And the whole thing showed up in the public news feed.

Wisniewski also posted a screen shot that said one of his friends had unwittingly been added to a Group called "What about all the good things Hitler did?"

"Not only [has Facebook] not improved privacy they have created a somewhat gaping hole," Wisniewski wrote. "This could be abused in a very nasty way. Imagine you are traveling to the United States from overseas and your friends find it amusing to add you to a group that looks terrorist related. You might find a welcoming committee from the border patrol that you weren't expecting."

Wisniewski said the feature highlights the fact that Facebook believes the "ability to connect trumps your ability to decide what should be done with your identity."

A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed that users can add any of their friends to a Group. But she likened its Groups policy to its photo-tagging policy or the ability to send Facebook messages.

"We made the decision to allow Group members to add others to the Group in order to make the product simple, and because it resembles something we all understand: adding one of your contacts to an e-mail thread," she said via e-mail. "Similarly to the controls in place for photo tagging, you can remove yourself from a Group at anytime. If you remove yourself from a Group, you can't be added back by a member."

Facebook suggested that if you have friends who will add you to offensive Groups, maybe they shouldn't be your friend anymore.

"If you have a friend that is adding you to Groups you do not want to belong to, or they are behaving in a way that bothers you, you can tell them to stop doing it, block them or remove them as a friend – and they will no longer EVER have the ability to add you to any Group," the spokeswoman said. "If you don't trust someone to look out for you when making these types of decisions on the site, we'd suggest that you shouldn't be friends on Facebook."

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