Why/How did Facebook spam me?
December 20, 2011 6:33 AM   Subscribe

So... FacebookTM sent an email to my email address from someone who I don't know but lives in my general geographical area requesting my friendship. Problem: this email address is definitely not associated with a FacebookTM account. However, there are probably cookies from FB on this computer. Also, this potential "friend" appears to run some sort of digital media consultancy (blech). Question: how did Facebook scrape this email address exactly and why did I get this email? Did this guy pay Facebook to send a friend request to an email address they scraped or is it something more automatic?

(The email involved does appear to actually have come from Facebook)
posted by to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Could you remove the identifying info and then paste the content of it here? I ask because Facebook has a feature where you can invite people to Facebook if you know their email address. This may have been that.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:39 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Simplest possibility is that he got your e-mail from somewhere independent of FaceBook and gave it to them to e-mail you the friend request.
posted by Jahaza at 6:39 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your "friend" used this feature.
posted by ook at 6:42 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Agreed, the most likely explanation is that the person got your email address somewhere independently of Facebook, and had FB send you the invite. (They don't have to pay FB, FB does it for free.) See Why am I getting a Facebook invitation email from a friend?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:56 AM on December 20, 2011

Can invites be done in a spammy way? I have no direct or indirect personal connection to this person.

Received: by with SMTP id xc10cs49614igb;
Tue, 20 Dec 2011 05:01:55 -0800 (PST)
Received: by with SMTP id l8mr775753qct.1.1324386114019;
Tue, 20 Dec 2011 05:01:54 -0800 (PST)
Received: from ( [])
by with ESMTP id gj7si1094518qab.7.2011.;
Tue, 20 Dec 2011 05:01:54 -0800 (PST)
Received-SPF: pass ( domain of designates as permitted sender) client-ip=;
Authentication-Results:; spf=pass ( domain of designates as permitted sender); dkim=pass
DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256;; s=s1024-2011-q2; c=relaxed/simple;
q=dns/txt;; t=1324386113;
Received: from [] ([])
by (envelope-from )
(ecelerity r(34222M)) with ECSTREAM
id 8D/78-07544-14780FE4; Tue, 20 Dec 2011 05:01:53 -0800
X-Facebook: from zuckmail ([MTI3LjAuMC4x])
by with HTTP (ZuckMail);
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2011 05:01:53 -0800
To: ennui
From: "Facebook"
Reply-to: Facebook
Subject: Reminder: Spammy McFuckface invited you to join Facebook...
X-Priority: 3
X-Mailer: ZuckMail [version 1.00]
X-Facebook-Camp: reminder_email
X-Facebook-Notify: reminder_email; mailid=55a846fG5af3cfa9b2adG0G46
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/alternative;

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="UTF-8"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable

To sign up for Facebook, follow the link below:


The following person invited you to be their friend on Facebook:

Spammy McFuckface (Invite sent: Dec 3, 2011)

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:

This message was sent to If you don't want to =
receive these emails from Facebook in the future, please follow the link =
below to unsubscribe.
Facebook, Inc. Attention: Department 415 P.O Box 10005 Palo Alto CA =

posted by at 7:43 AM on December 20, 2011

You sound kinda paranoid / antagonistic about this. Why not just message the guy?

"Hey Steve, I received your friend request and I'm a bit confused; I didn't think Facebook had this email address. Would really appreciate it if you could clarify if you had it, and remind me how it is we're connected?"

If he says "I grabbed your email off an event registration list from 7 years ago", reporting him to Facebook for spam will be your best option.
posted by ElfWord at 7:59 AM on December 20, 2011

Being a long holdout of Facebook, I received approximately one billion of these from people with whom I had nothing more than a fleeting acquaintance. The best (and simplest) explanation was (i) that these people had, once upon a time, sent me an email from an online email account (which includes the possibility of a group email which went directly to my spambox), (ii) that they then gave facebook their email password in order to cull their address book to make the most efficient and annoying use of facebook's invite feature as possible. This, then, implies either (iii) that they lacked the brainpower required to not limit the effect of this feature by spamming every single person they had ever emailed, or (iv) that they in fact wanted to spam you. I'm betting on (iii).

Also, consider another possibility: the person simply misspelled an email address.

Finally, if this is your first such email: consider yourself lucky.
posted by matlock expressway at 8:00 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is a Facebook invitation, as it says: "To sign up for Facebook, follow the link below."

So, someone who has your address, and doesn't know you're already on Facebook as It's designed to get you to sign up to Facebook, and is likely triggered when that someone imported their address book. So, as you yourself say, this email address is still not associated with a Facebook account. Nothing nefarious is going on here, except facebook's standard practice of spamming unmatched addresses from imported address books to get people to sign up.

You can opt your address out of all future solicitations to that address by clicking the provided link. This is how Facebook is able to categorise these invitations for new facebook accounts as "not spam" - you can in fact opt out with a single click.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:00 AM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Being a long holdout of Facebook, I received approximately one billion of these from people with whom I had nothing more than a fleeting acquaintance.

The problem for me is that I have ZERO acquaintance with this person. I'm not sure I have to defend myself, but it would be one thing if this were just straight up marketing, I understand CREAM, but this is some sort of weird social marketing... increasing your social network with spam! That offends me on multiple levels. There's just no plausible route by which he got my email in some personal fashion.

Maybe he is trolling google circle recommendations and auto facebook inviting them...
posted by at 8:11 AM on December 20, 2011

There's just no plausible route by which he got my email in some personal fashion.

So he got it through any of the myriad non-personal routes that spammers get email addresses. Yes, it's spam, but it's not Facebook's fault. It's fine to be angry at the spammer, but if you're angry at Facebook your ire is misdirected.

Click the "unsubscribe" link, click the link that says, "yes, really, I don't ever want to receive FB invites at this address" and be done with it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:24 AM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

There's just no plausible route by which he got my email in some personal fashion.

People have notoriously bad memories for things like this, but let's assume you're right. Another possibility is that this person ("Spammy McFuckface," if you insist) entered your email address as a coincidental mistake. I've seen similar things happen. I looked up a friend once by plugging her email address into Facebook—an email address that I was actively using to correspond with her—and Facebook told me the email was registered to somebody else's account, somebody totally unrelated living across the country and a legitimate person, not a shell account opened by my friend. Facebook's listing was mistaken.

Another friend of mine had an almost unique name. Google showed two people in the country with her name, my friend and another girl in New York. My friend owned the AIM account for that name [FirstnameLastname] and we used it to chat all the time, but when you plugged that AIM handle into Facebook's "Find Your Friends" feature, it said that AIM handle was registered to the girl in New York.

Mistakes like this happen. It's really no different from what happened back in the telephone days, things like misdialed numbers and crossed wires. One thing to ask yourself is whether "Mr. Fuckface" has ~200 friends on Facebook, or several thousand. If the latter, then it's certainly plausible that he's scraping various lists and trying to connect with as many people as possible. Otherwise, consider chalking this up to a "wrong number" anomaly and forgetting about it.
posted by cribcage at 8:46 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I coach businesses, organizations, and individuals who want to use the Internet and Social Media effectively. I also provide digital strategy services on a consulting basis.

I'm a co-founder of X, the network for entrepreneurs

from one of his blogs... i guess social network spamming is a thing maybe...
posted by at 8:58 AM on December 20, 2011

The email you posted exactly matches what is sent by the FB tool I linked above.

If you're looking for someone to blame, blame the marketing guy.

On preview, yeah, social network spamming is a thing. If you are only just now discovering that, congratulations on your good fortune over the past few years for somehow avoiding it thus far.
posted by ook at 9:01 AM on December 20, 2011

I'm a social media "spammer" by day.

There is a way of increasing awareness for your page by uploading a .csv file to the site. If the people on that list are registered on Facebook with that email, they'll get a little ad in the upper right-hand corner that says "So and So suggests you like x page" with a little thumbs up.

If someone on that list is not registered on Facebook (using that particular email address), FB sends them an email saying "So and So would like to be your friend. We are a social network."

Chances are this guy farmed your email address from somewhere, uploaded it to fb and sent it off to you. He probably searched locally for email addresses and happened upon you.
posted by bubsy012 at 8:01 PM on December 20, 2011

I've been in a similar situation. I *think* what happened is largely what others have said, that somebody imported their address book to Facebook. The twist, which might be what is disconcerting you, is I think a contact who only had my address as a 'co-recipient' from a mutual friend's Xmas email or similar ended up with my email address in their contacts, which were then uploaded.
This explains both the tenuous relationship, and the way a non-advertised address could potentially be found.
posted by bystander at 4:23 AM on December 22, 2011

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