Why You Shouldn’t Accept My Invitation to Join Me on Remote.com (Because I Didn’t Send It)
This morning I found an email in my inbox from a journalist I respect, but don’t know well. Join me on Remote.com, was the subject line. In it, her picture (from Facebook), a short bio and then: Marie invites you to connect on Remote.com.
I hadn’t heard of it, and because it came from someone I admire, I clicked. The easiest way to explore was to simply accept the invitation, which felt harmless enough—I’ve joined many a thing through my Facebook profile, and always simply deactivated them later if necessary.
The next question, too, seemed innocuous. Did I want to “connect” my Google account? Well, a service like Remote.com, which claims to be a community for remote and freelance work, is only useful if people you would want to work for or with are using it. If I connected my Google account, I thought, I’d be able to see which of the people I already knew were using the service—as when Linked In suggests connections. I was familiar with the way Linked In works, which is very cautious—it’s a network that’s very aware that users might not want their employers to suddenly notice them, say, beefing up their resume.
When connecting my Google account didn’t lead to a list of people I might want to connect with on Remote.com, I explored a little more, filled in the profile, lost interest and signed off.
You can probably guess what happened next. Texts, from my two closest friends. Accepting this Remote.com thing, said one. What’s this Remote thing, asked another. My email started to explode as well. What was this? DId I recommend it? Savvier, or at least more awake people than I was were trying to check in with me before they clicked, but I was also getting many, many notifications that my contacts had “accepted my invitation”—an invitation I wasn’t aware I’d sent.
Remote.com had accessed my contacts and emailed every single one of them.
I didn’t approve that—would never have approved that. I’ve had other networks or applications request permission to do that, in some cases every time you sign in, but never granted it, for obvious reasons.
By not revealing what “connecting” your Google account will do, Remote.com violates any trust it could hope to have with users. It’s certainly lost mine, and at this point I’m struggling to figure out how to delete my account. (I’ve also tried to complain about their use of my email account through Twitter and through their customer service, but I’ve had no response.) Far from inviting people to join me there, I want to invite my connections to join me in boycotting it—but interestingly, I can’t. Google may allow Remote.com to send an indentical spam message to all of my contacts, but if I attempted to do the same, it would cut me off quickly. I’d find myself without any ability to use the account at all.
I made a mistake here, and I don’t deny it. I assumed Remote.com would follow the same conventions I’ve come to count on from other networks, and would request permission before making use of the info it could access through Google. I also assumed that Google actively required it to request that permission. And, yes, I know what happens when you “assume”. (For those of you who didn’t grow up with my mother, you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”.) The fault is mine, and so is the embarassment.
But the fault is also with Remote.com and its founders, employees and investors. We all, in a connected world, owe each other a duty of not taking advantage of those connections. Remote.com is wrong to access the email accounts of users in this way, and Google is wrong to permit it. I’m ashamed of my mistake, but in their case, it’s their intentions that are shameful.
I believe each of us is responsible for our own happiness.
I believe happier parents are better parents, and better people.
I believe family should be a source of joy and refuge, not another stressor in a busy life.
I believe we can be happy even when things aren’t great.
We can raise our families, live our lives, and love (almost) every minute of it — if we let go of the idea of parenting as a direct route to destination: success, and decide to meander along our own merry way. This former New York Times reporter is taking on the rug rat race — join me.