Social networking software

Is Apple's Ping a Haven for Spammers?

It seems Apple is getting into the social networking business, God help them. Among the other life changing products rolled out at this week's semi-annual Apple fanboyfest was "Ping," a service that lets you see what music the other 160 million people using iTunes like and recommend.

This is, apparently, what remains of Lala.com, a cool and innovative music-based social network Apple snapped up last December and quietly shuttered in May.

Ping is barely out two days the door, and already it's already beset with controversy. First, there was that embarrassing public spat between Apple and Facebook prior to the announcement.

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For whatever reason, Steve Jobs would not agree to the "onerous terms" demanded by Facebook (which he declined to enumerate), so Ping went out the door without any integration with the world's largest social network whatsoever. But not before Apple had created press materials boasting about how you could log into Ping via Facebook Connect or find fellow Pingers on Facebook.

I guess Steve and Mark Zuckerberg aren't Facebook friends anymore.

Now the problem is more practical: Turns out that Ping is a spammer-scammer's heaven. By all reports, Ping users are getting dinged with the same kinds of URL-baiting comment spam we've grown so fond of elsewhere on the blogosphere.

Sophos Security blogger Chester Wisniewski asks quite rightly why Apple couldn't see this coming:

"Most of the security industry has been pointing out the migration of spam from an email-only venture to blog/forum comments, Facebook, Twitter and other Web 2.0 platforms. But apparently Apple didn't consider this when designing Ping, as the service implements no spam or URL filtering. It is no big shock that less than 24 hours after launch, Ping is drowning in scams and spams."

What's odd, says Wisniewski, is that Apple is filtering Ping for other offensive material (such as nude profile photos), but it forgot about spam. Or maybe Apple believes its users truly are the Chosen People and that, like malware, spam simply doesn't touch them. It's probably just those Windows iTunes Untouchables that are having the problems.

(Full Disclosure: I moved out of the Apple ecosphere when my iPod Mini gave up the ghost several years ago. I have not been back. The whole notion of living inside a closed box Apple has created (even with DRM-free music) just irks the hell out of me. So iTunes has no allure for me. Your mileage may vary.)

PC World's Nick Mediati steps through Ping's limited privacy settings. Unfortunately, there appears to be no easy fix for the comment spam.

Welcome, Apple, to the wild world of social media. We wish you and your Ping users luck -- you're going to need it.

ITworld TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan knows that Apple fanboys will roast him for dissing iTunes, so go ahead AFBs and do your worst. Catch his brand of juvenile snark at eSarcasm (Geek Humor Gone Wild) or follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech .

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