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Preventing Google Calendar spam, and intricacy of requirements analysis

In Google Calendar's (current) default configuration there's an opening for unlimited spamming, with an opportunity for dangerous phishing links. There's a Google Calendar setting that closes that opening, but in a way that also closes some information flow in legitimate collaboration with known colleagues. The details are a good example of the intricacy and difficulty in adequate requirements analysis.

The problem is in what happens when someone creates a calendar event that include you as a guest.

  • The person including you can elect to send out notifications to the event guests via email.
  • Your calendar has a setting which regulates when a calendar entry is automatically created for events of which you are a guest: "Automatically add invitations" (in General > Event settings)
    • Here are the options:
      1. Yes <- default="" li="" the="">
      2. Yes, but don't send event notifications unless I have responded "Yes" or "Maybe"
      3. No, only show invitations to which I have responded
    • You need to select 3 if you want to avoid automatically having spammer's events that include you as guest from showing on your calendar. (If you select 1 or 2 you can mark events that show on your calendar unwanted as spam, but then you have to intervene, and spam numbers could become unmanageable.)
For those of you who are reading just for the solution, that's it. It has a drawback, and a way that Google Calendar could rectify that drawback, tough such a solution is not yet available.

For those interested in how that solution could be better, and the intricacy of requirements assessment: the problem is that selecting 3 means that the system no longer does anything to automatically alert you about events that legitimately include you, but for which the colleague does not elect to issue an emailed notification. (This can easily happen in the context of work or other team endeavors.)

There's a solution for an analogous situation: to have an option to include events depending on whether the event creator is in your address book. This is similar to Gmail's Vacation responder configuration option, "Only send a response to people in my Contacts".

There might be some people in your contacts who overuse the privilege, but at least you have social recourse to let them know, which doesn't work with spammers. Further refinement of the configuration options, so you could identify a contacts group to exclude from the privilege, would provide a mechanical means for customizing to deal with this situation, as well.

Though this configuration issue is a fairly small detail, it illustrates the discretion necessary to enable people to manage communications which are accessible by the whole wide world. There's enormous potential inherent in that, and part of that potential is potential for abuse, which needs to be intricately tamed.


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