Facebook: A Way For Spammers To Copy Your Email Address

October 1, 2008

For a long time, Facebook has been making it a practice to show email addresses on people’s profile pages as a jpg picture rather than as an actual string of characters.

But did you know that the mobile web version of Facebook displays the same email addresses as an actual string of characters?

Publishing email addresses as a jpg picture on your Facebook profile makes it difficult for spammers to harvest email addresses from our profiles.  That is, spammers have tools that examines web pages and when an email address (xxx@xxx.xx) is detected, it is copied and then used to send spam to.  Publishing an email address as a picture rather than as a text prevents these tools from actually copying these email addresses (unless the tool is sophisticated enough to do optical character recognition as well).

However, publishing your email address as a picture also makes it slightly difficult for us to email each other.  When I want to email a friend via conventional means rather than than via Facebook’s email system, I can’t just copy and paste that friend’s email address (if the friend allows it to be displayed on his/her profile) into the to: field of a new email.  Rather, I have to memorize the address, switch to my email window, and type the email address from memory.  If the friend has a ridiculously complicated address – like sfz1998ltr@slfx.net – I often have to switch windows back n fro several times.

So it comes as a surprise to me to see that the mobile web version of Facebook shows the same email addresses in text.  Won’t it be easy for spammers to just use the mobile web version instead and harvest email addresses that way?

Perhaps Facebook thinks spammers aren’t as smart as you and me.  And perhaps I shouldn’t be printing this blog post and giving spammers some ideas …  Hmmm.

(And perhaps you’d better make sure your privacy settings are set so that your Facebook profile email address can only be viewed by “friends!”)


3 Responses to “Facebook: A Way For Spammers To Copy Your Email Address”

  1. Rob Says:

    Can you just write down on a piece of paper when you’re looking up a jpg version of an email address? I do it sometimes if the email address is too long or hard to memorize.

  2. proudgeek Says:

    Uh. Um.

    Good point.

    Maybe I’m just too proud a geek to resort to mundane means like pen and paper … :-)

  3. koroscant Says:


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