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Advice on morally dubious and possibly illegal thing my company wants me to do

Discussion in 'Programming & Webmastering' started by Red_Machine, Apr 24, 2014.

  1. Red_Machine

    Red_Machine

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    So I'm supposed to be building servers, but my bosses have basically dumped the management of the company's social networking portfolio in my lap (which, I might add, was not mentioned in the job description or the interview). I really don't want to do it, but I have little choice in the matter.

    Now for my dilemma. The company has developed software which trawls Facebook for groups related to search terms, and then rips the userIDs of group members. They want me to friend some of these people, with an account they had me set up for a fake company director, and basically fill their feeds with ads for our services and possibly send them messages later on. I said point blank to my boss that this was morally dubious and I would absolutely hate it if someone did it to me. I believe that creating a fake profile violates Facebook's terms of services, but I imagine creating a fake profile for the purpouse of advertising is even worse. I want no part in this, but I need advice on how to tell them that what they want me to do is illegal or otherwise shady.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2014
  2. FordGT90Concept

    FordGT90Concept "I go fast!1!11!1!"

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    https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms

    4, subsections:
    1. You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
    4. You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes

    5, subsections:
    7. If you collect information from users, you will: obtain their consent, make it clear you (and not Facebook) are the one collecting their information, and post a privacy policy explaining what information you collect and how you will use it.

    19 subsections:
    4. If we fail to enforce any of this Statement, it will not be considered a waiver.


    https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards

    Bullying and Harassment: Facebook does not tolerate bullying or harassment. We allow users to speak freely on matters and people of public interest, but take action on all reports of abusive behavior directed at private individuals. Repeatedly targeting other users with unwanted friend requests or messages is a form of harassment.

    Identity and Privacy: On Facebook people connect using their real names and identities. We ask that you refrain from publishing the personal information of others without their consent. Claiming to be another person, creating a false presence for an organization, or creating multiple accounts undermines community and violates Facebook's terms.

    Phishing and Spam: We take the safety of our members seriously and work to prevent attempts to compromise their privacy or security. We also ask that you respect our members by not contacting them for commercial purposes without their consent.


    Illegal, I doubt it, but the account will likely be terminated quickly rendering the whole thing moot. If the company has a Facebook account for outreach, it could be terminated as well which could irreversibly damage the company's public image.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2014
    hellrazor and Aquinus say thanks.
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  3. Devon68

    Devon68

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    So they want you to create a fake facebook profile, become friends with some people and send them advertisements. While the thing I mentioned is not illegal but it is in violation of some of the facebook terms of use. While the thing's FordGT90Concept posted are true there are many people with fake accounts and still facebook doesn't seem to care, otherwise they would ban them of punish them somehow.

    If you think that it's not morally right what they are asking you to do it's up to you to decide weather you do/don't want to do it.
  4. Red_Machine

    Red_Machine

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    They're also making me film videos and upload them to multiple YouTube accounts with links to the company website in the descriptions for advertisment purpouses, and commenting on other people's videos with links to the ones I've made. They don't care if nobody watches them, they just want them there for search engine optimisation. I really don't want to be doing any of this. They should hire a social networking guru to do all this, not just dump it on the new guy.
  5. pigulici

    pigulici

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    Well, you must know that anyway you will tell to your boss(even if you come with legal example) you will look bad in his eyes, and he will find someone to do that not so morall job, the question it is if it is worth to loose your job for the benefit of others(who maybe will never know what good have done to them)...though one(are many hidden heroes and less good people outthere than many people think)...
  6. M0rt

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    First, get some legal advice ASAP and find out what protections exist under UK labor law.

    1. Preserve all company correspondence on the matter.

    2. Get in touch with the Electronic Frontier Foundation or a similar group in the UK for advice, and if possible, legal counsel.

    OP, what is the state of your personal finances? Can you afford another job search? Can you afford a lawyer?

    If so,

    3. Articulate your concerns via email for the record and emphasize that these activities fall outside the scope of duties you agreed to perform.

    Are you objecting to doing these things yourself, or that your company is doing them at all? Where's your line?

    4. Contact Facebook's and YouTube's legal departments and appraise them of the situation. Coordinate a cease and desist strategy with them to be implemented immediately following your first few posts, if possible. Hopefully, that will put the kibosh on your company's plans while maintaining your employment.

    5. Reach out to some journalists who cover privacy rights, data mining, etc.

    How would you characterize the scale of your company's effort? Is there a way to give the targeted parties a heads-up?
    THE_EGG says thanks.
  7. Mindweaver

    Mindweaver Moderato®™ Staff Member

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    What's your alternative if you don't do what they want, and they no longer need your services?
    Crunching for Team TPU
  8. RCoon

    RCoon Forum Gypsy

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    Do the same thing I do at work when silly people come in asking me to copy CD's/DVD's/download videos from youtube. Tell them you're not willing to breach the terms of service you agree to when you utilise such services, and if they want to do it, they need to do it on their own time and their own computer on their own internet. I'm more than happy to say this to my senior management, and when they hear terms of service, they simply agree and back off.

    They can't fire him because he refuses to breach terms of services. It would cost them thousands, and they're probably smart enough to know it.

    If anything they will be impressed that you're a straight shooting guy that abides by rules that are set. There are some things you can do though, so don't try to take an easy way out of doing work you simply can't be bothered to do. A job is a job after all.
  9. Red_Machine

    Red_Machine

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    Wow, I'm in completely over my head here. But to answer your questions:

    1. I downloaded a copy of the Google Docs spreadsheet with my supplimentary tasks and explanations of how to do them.

    2. How would I go about doing that? Is it really necessary?

    My personal finances are sound. I would also get government support while I'm out of work. I honestly don't know what the legal costs would be, so I can't say if I could afford one or not.

    3. I'll discuss it with my parents tonight and decide what to do from there.

    4. What would be the best way to go about doing that? Just straight up tell them that my company is making me do stuff that violates their TOS?

    5. I wouldn't even know where to find any journalists.

    It's pretty small scale at the moment. But they're working on some software that will be able to do it on a pretty big scale. Like you use the software and it'll upload the video to as many YouTube accounts/Twitter accounts/Facebook accounts/Vimeo accounts/DailyMotion accounts/whatever accounts as you want. Their software already has the ability to automatically manage and post content to a Facebook account, post stuff to dozens of different social network platforms at once, and a whole host of other stuff I haven't even investigated yet. Plus, as I described earlier, the ability to rip userIDs from Facebook groups. Is that even legal?
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2014
  10. RCoon

    RCoon Forum Gypsy

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    Yeah, this is why Facebook is entirely retarded :laugh:

    All in all it sounds like a scummy advertising company, I'd leave out of moral standing, I hate companies that abuse these platforms by spamming us. They must be stupid to think it actually works.
  11. Vario

    Vario

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    do it and intentionally get banned from facebook immediately? (report the fake account from home?)

    A wise person once told me that you should never do anything that you wouldn't want publicized on the front page of the newspaper. Another once told me that you should never let anyone talk you into doing something you don't want to do.
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  12. TheBrainyOne

    TheBrainyOne

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    I don't think that will work because:
    So, if Facebook comes to arrest him or something, he will have no way to prove that his company asked him to do it.

    BTW, OP why don't you document all this stuff? If you end up leaving your job, it might be a good idea to shotgun their doings all over the internet and press (as an Anonymous Moral employee).
  13. Frick

    Frick Fishfaced Nincompoop

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    I'm just picturing you (lightweight redhead obviously), in front of a computer, in a bright white room, crying and whispering "not Facebook, oh please god not Facebook". There's a man in a gimpsuit behind you.

    Me I would probably just say "no" and see what they did next. If they fired me, fine, I probably would not have liked it there anyway. ON the other hand, a job is a job.. I wish you luck anyway.

    EDIT: Wait, do you belong to a trade union, and do they have power?
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  14. Red_Machine

    Red_Machine

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    DO YOU WORK HERE TOO!?!? :laugh:

    But to answer your question, no, I do not belong to a union.
    I've downloaded copies of the documents pertaining to it in case I need them in the future.
  15. Vario

    Vario

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    can you go above the boss? Yes this would mess things up but if its against your principles you have little choice
  16. Mindweaver

    Mindweaver Moderato®™ Staff Member

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    Yea in theory, but if they are wanting him to do something shady then more than likely they will find a way to get rid of him don't you think? I do. I believe it's probably time to start looking for another job. If you are not willing to do what they want. Remember it's a lot easier to get a job when you have a job. I would loosely play along until I did though. Just my 2 cents. :p

    EDIT: See bold
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  17. Red_Machine

    Red_Machine

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    It's a small company. One of the ones giving me these orders is the owner of the company. So it's basically my boss AND the big boss who are telling me to do this.
  18. Ferrum Master

    Ferrum Master

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    UHHH

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  19. Red_Machine

    Red_Machine

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    I forgot to mention that the document they gave me details how to avoid Facebook's spam detectors.
  20. Norton

    Norton WCG-TPU Team Captain

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    Here's a quick tip- ask them to provide you written instructions regarding what they want you to do- "In order to clearly understand the project goals and your request". If they know it's illegal, they may not ask again, and if they don't and commit it to writing, you can review the request point by point and explain to them whether or not it is legal and what their options are to do a similar thing legally.

    In other words, cover your ass, if you leave or get fired the owner may deliver the message to future employers that you are not a good worker, etc...

    I had a related experience regarding illegal/improper dumping of materials on a site that I had just starting working at and rather than allow it to continue or refuse to keep doing it, I explained to the owner why it was illegal, provided him with two options, and asked him for further instructions... all of this was done in writing.
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  21. jsfitz54

    jsfitz54

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    Does the UK have "Whistle Blower" laws that would protect you? In the U.S. there is a cash incentive to turn in wrong doers.
  22. Kursah

    Kursah

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    A couple things to remember, those that sign the paychecks make the rules. Morally right or not, if you won't do it, someone else will. That's where you need to draw your own lines. If you don't want to do it, find another place of employment. I've never found a single place of employment that didn't cross at least one line that was morally or just flat out wrong.

    Incentives or not, no employer wants to hire a taddle tail or whistleblower, and once you've been labeled as such, finding a good career opportunity could be a challenge. I don't agree with how this works...but there's a harsh reality out there. At least in my experience on the field...if you won't do the dirty work, they will pay someone else who will. This also goes hand-in-hand with expendability and liability offloading as well.

    I'd say walk away and find a different place to work, I wouldn't do those actions for my employer and would flat out tell them no, find someone else to do that task and let it go from there. Be ready to walk. Be confident and proud of your morals.

    :toast:
  23. M0rt

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    1. In addition to the Google Doc, it's important to elicit and preserve written instructions from your company management that contains names, dates, and intent, ie: emails. I'd guess that the Doc alone leaves, at least part of management, with plausible deniability and you want to be able to prove conclusively that the owner and all relevant subordinates were aware and approved of the plan.

    2. Send the EFF a bloody email from a newly created account or get a calling card and dial em up. Contacting them is not necessary per se, but you need legal advice and perhaps they would be inclined to give you some. More likely, they'd be able to put you in touch with people in the UK who could help you. Plus, you have nothing to lose, see what they have to say. Just be sure to leave your name and your company's name out of the conversation for the time being.

    3. Only start voicing your objections if you are prepared to be fired or quit and make sure you sort out item #1 before you go down that road. First, I'd send each boss an email asking about some minor or technical detail to establish their knowledge, nothing that would raise any suspicion.

    4. Yes, tell them what your company is planning, but again, leave your name and your company's name out of the conversation. See what they have to say and take it from there.

    5. You could try the gents over at Techdirt, Ars Technica, etc. You're obviously familiar with the internet, do some research.

    Find some legal advice ASAP, even if it's only a free consultation. What protections do you have under UK labor law? Is what they are asking you to do illegal? These questions need to be answered definitively.

    Most importantly, preserve your anonymity at all times and only escalate things once you have covered your ass. As Kursah and Norton alluded, you don't want this to negatively affect your career in the the future. People in the same industry talk to one another and you don't want your name followed by "do not hire him" coming out of anyone's mouth.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2014
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  24. jsfitz54

    jsfitz54

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  25. Red_Machine

    Red_Machine

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    So I spoke to my boss, and he accepted my reasoning on the whole thing being shady and violating the terms of service. I don't have to do the shady stuff anymore, but he still wants me to make videos.
    Aquinus says thanks.

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