JISHOU, HUNAN — There should be a special circle in Hell for people that purport to stop spam while creating it themselves. Witness, Boxbe.
Boxbe supposedly is a service that filters and prioritizes your email, which sounds really good to someone who gets a lot of email. So, some people have signed up for the service. A pox on them, too!
Last night, I got two very puzzling emails from the gmail addy of a fellow Picasa Web user, someone I don’t know at all and have never communicated with.
The first subject line said, “XXXXXX sent you a message from Picasa Web Albums.” The message included a thumbnail of this photo I took last May,and this text:
I would like to make the following request regarding this photo.
Please don't share this with anyone
Please contact me if you would like any additional information. Thank you for your consideration.
- This email was sent by Picasa Web Albums on behalf of XXXXXX
Note: You may change your notification settings regarding these emails by clicking on the Settings link on Picasa Web Albums
Of course, I went to XXXXXX’s Picasa Web album, to see who the hell he is. Nope, don’t know him at all. And, more importantly, unless he’s disguised as an elephant statue with a broken trunk, he is not in the photo I took. Besides that, he apparently lives in Detroit. The photo was taken near Jishou, Hunan, at August Moon Lake.
The second message arrived two minutes later, with the subject line, “XXXXXX has commented on your photo.” And by golly, there was this message under the same photo, “Maybe someday we will meet.” WTF?
So, I replied to the first message through Picasa’s mail service, asking him in response to his non-sharing request, “Why? It’s a photo of my students taken during a class trip.”
At that point, I went to sleep. When I woke up this morning, I found another message from XXXXXX had arrived about 10 minutes after my reply, but this time it came from email@example.com. Here is what it said:
Hello John Wheaton,
Your message about "Re: XXXXXX sent you a message from Picasa Web Albums" was waitlisted.
Please add yourself to my Guest List so your messages will be delivered to my Inbox. Use the link below.
Click here to deliver your message. [Link deleted.]
About this Notice
Boxbe [Link deleted] prioritizes and screens your email using a Guest List and your extended social network. It's free, it removes clutter, and it helps you focus on the people who matter to you.
End Email Overload
The link, which I have deleted, points to XXXXXX’s Boxbe guest list, but unless you viewed the source code of the email, you might figure the mail had come from Picasa Web. The HTML version of the email, which I displayed here, just says “Guest List,” while the plaintext version says “my Boxbe Guest List.”
Well, this smells awfully like phishing to me, like those messages that look like they come from your bank or PayPal, but have a disguised link that takes you to some shady, cloned website in Romania or somewhere that will steal your personal information.
If you sign up for Boxbe, it will scan your email address books to build a whitelist of addresses you presumably want to receive mail from. At the same time, Boxbe sends messages of its own to all the people in your address book announcing that you have just signed up for this wonderful new service, and wouldn’t they like to join, too?
That’s annoying in itself, but the jimmying of Google Picasa Web and Gmail services is lightyears beyond in sheer chutzpah. To me, it appears that Boxbe (or XXXXXX, for all I know) is visiting random Picasa Web photo albums, leaving an obscure comment on a photo, and sending out puzzling messages like the one I got to the album’s owner. Boxbe has apparently found a way to use Google’s services to leverage Boxbe’s marketing strategy — spam. Vile.
I want to warn XXXXXX about Boxbe, but he is now behind Boxbe’s “spam wall.” If I send a message to his gmail address I will have to visit that Boxbe link. I’d rather respond to a Nigerian banking solicitation.
I am not even sure I should leave a comment on his albums, because I have to sign into Picasa Web to do it (through a proxy, since China blocks Picasa Web). For all I know, Boxbe is managing to monitor Picasa Web’s comment system for emails. I think they are that evil.
My advice: avoid Boxbe. Don’t respond to emails from friends coming from Boxbe. A pox on Boxbe.
If you’re a Gmail user afflicted with Boxbe, here’s how to cure the rash.