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Mafia Wars CEO Brags About Scamming Users 251

jamie writes with a follow-up to our recent discussion of social gaming scams: "Mark Pincus, CEO of the company that brought us Mafia Wars, says: 'I did every horrible thing in the book just to get revenues right away. I mean, we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this Zwinky toolbar, which was like, I don't know... I downloaded it once and couldn't get rid of it.'" TechCrunch also ran a interesting tell-all from the CEO of a company specializing in Facebook advertisements, who provided some details on similarly shady operations at the popular social networking site.
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Mafia Wars CEO Brags About Scamming Users

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  • by lamapper ( 1343009 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:18AM (#30070486) Homepage Journal
    The guy is pretty much bragging about how and what he did to start his company. I can respect what he is created and still not like the method he used to do it.

    Anything that exposes additional personal information on us to the web is bad IMO. All personal info, should be OFF by default anything less is unacceptable. If I choose to click a box and expose personal info, it should only be by my choice, not to agree to a TOS.

    The guy even admits that the polls were BS, just collecting a user's personal information for selling to advertisers to generate revenue.

  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:18AM (#30070488) Journal

    ... anyone using Facebook, that is. It's a pit of shady applications. Not even the nice applications are not annoying in some aspect. You can't even take a quiz there without having it try force itself onto others. Sometimes trying to fool you into thinking that the only way to see the results is to publish it to your friends.

    There was a time when we couldn't dream of malicious quizzes, and infesting horoscopes, but Facebook brings the necessary application intelligence to us. In a bad way. Their application API must be like a spammer's wet dream.

  • Re:Business men (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chatterton ( 228704 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:07AM (#30070694) Homepage

    This is more like a bank robber that once he have all the money he need he open its night club and live from his hard earned money and never rob again. Shady business is shady business, successful and converted to a legitimate business or not sucessful.

  • by gzipped_tar ( 1151931 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:17AM (#30070742) Journal

    Bad thieves and scammers steal and scam, and get squashed.

    Meh thieves and scammers steal and scam, and brag about it.

    Great thieves and scammers steal and scam, and get public funding as well as election votes.

    Why getting mad at this guy, while great scammers run the world?

  • by arethuza ( 737069 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:33AM (#30070792)
    Didn't Google's first plan to make money, selling search engines, fail rather badly? They only came up with their wildly succesful business model based on advertising after the first one failed. Note they still do sell search appliances, but it is a tiny percentage of their revenue.
  • by WarJolt ( 990309 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:33AM (#30070794)

    I mean, we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this Zwinky toolbar, which was like, I don't know... I downloaded it once and couldn't get rid of it.

    Hijackthis would usually get rid of most toolbars. Firefox toolbars are easier to get rid of.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:39AM (#30070816)

    My biggest problem with FB applications is the absurd policy about what rights do the applications have. Either you give them no rights at all (and can't use it) or you give them full access to all your and your friends' info. You can then go to settings and stop the application from posting to your wall, etc... But it has access to all the information you have access to.

    There are occasionally rather interesting looking small games, quizes, etc. that I would want to try out... But I don't want to give them full access to all my information! Those quizes don't need it at all, the application doesn't use any of it. Perhaps a list of friend names so it can show "Your friends got these results" but that's it.

    If there only was a way to use some checkbox list "Let these access list of my friends but not their (or my) relationshipstatus, their (or my) photos, the groups they (or I) belong to..." or anything like that, I would use a lot more applications. But it is either "Tell them everything or don't use them".

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @07:10AM (#30070950) Journal
    At least he produced something that, at least to some people, has value. Most of those kids grow up and get jobs on Wall Street...
  • Re:Business men (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hldn ( 1085833 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @07:21AM (#30070994) Homepage

    then the parents got what they deserved for getting cellphones for their kids.

    kids don't need cellphones, and if they really feel that they do, they can get a job and pay for it themselves.

  • by yoey ( 247125 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @07:37AM (#30071036) Journal

    "Behind every great fortune is a crime." -- Honoré de Balzac

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 12, 2009 @07:39AM (#30071044)

    ... if not a criminal investigation. C'mon guys, he (and others) openly admit to fraudulently signing up users for subscription based texting schemes without EVER (even in the fine print) asking for the permission of the user. Considering that the carriers also benefited (I think they got half of the proceeds) they should also be strung up by the b***s for their complicity.

  • Mafia Wars is FREE (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @08:22AM (#30071182)

    Mafia Wars is free. You never have to install anything, spend any money, or visit any other sites. If you want some of the special tokens, you can do those things... But the tokens will only get you things that you could get anyway if you simply had some patience.

    All of this is completely in the users' hands. The sponsors page even says things like 'don't sign up for this if you don't really want information on the product' and things like that. If you don't really -want- the Zwinkie toolbar, you shouldn't install it.

  • by GospelHead821 ( 466923 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @08:37AM (#30071230)

    Let's assume that they're not doing anything illegal with your data. Let's even assume they're not doing anything shady like trying to install software that you won't be able to get rid of later. Is anybody else even a little bit sympathetic to the argument that this is how Facebook makes money? They don't charge their users. The only "product" they have to sell is their users' freely-given information. The Slashdot crowd tends to be more security conscious than others but I've actually thought about this one. Am I willing to trade some of my anonymity for the use of an interesting, free service? Yeah, a little bit, I am. Cue the zealots shouting about how I deserve to have my identity stolen and my credit trampled into the ground for my heresy.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @08:40AM (#30071248) Journal

    >>>"Dominic should be banned from Facebook..... We call him the Sperminator as he just goes around getting girls pregnant and doesn't ever think about the consequences"

    He'd just move over to the local bar.
    Men have been impregnating girls for millions of years.
    It's what they do, and why anyone is shocked by this is a mystery.

    As for "not thinking about consequences" isn't that what the women did as well? It seems they are just as guilty, else they'd not be pregnant

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @08:49AM (#30071288)

    stupid fuckheads

    First, maturity is realizing that not everyone who disagrees with you is a "fuckhead".

    Is there a specific name for a typical way of walking? Typical way of breathing? Typical attitude toward others?

    As a matter of fact, we have an extensive vocabulary to describe all these things. Try "strolling", "breathing" and "being amicable". In fact, that a concept has a simple name in all languages shows by sort of a reverse Sapir-Whorf route the universality of that concept.

    Greed, being a deviant behavior

    Greed isn't deviant. In fact, it's rather common, and to some degree, universal. What we call "greed" is just the manifestation of game theory []. Every organism acts in its own interest, or more precisely, in the interest of its genes. Organisms do this because they inherited the trait from their ancestors, who were the organisms who spread their genes best. Humans are not above mathematics. It's only natural that we act in our best interests too. But for the most part, we do so by cooperating, because they makes us all better off.

    When all is well, we all get along in a state of enlightened self-interest where our self-interest and collective interest balance. But aggressive players can disrupt the game and at least temporarily benefit. Sometimes the gain really is short-term, and the society (system) settles back into a stable state []. Other times, a new equilibrium is achieved. In human terms, that new equilibrium usually isn't desirable, and even the aggressors end up worse off. (To pick an example: who did the Trojan War benefit, exactly?)

    If we want a stable society in which we can all accrue the maximum personal benefit, we need to push back against those who would destabilize it using short-sighted aggressive behavior. To do that, we need to institute rules that make this behavior less attractive, and we need to institute rules that make society more tolerant to the damage caused by this aggressive behavior.

    "Good" and "bad" are inflammatory and irrelevant on this level. Instead, we should be talking about how to prevent society from being damaged by its most aggressive members.

  • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @09:04AM (#30071382)

    As for "not thinking about consequences" isn't that what the women did as well? It seems they are just as guilty, else they'd not be pregnant

    Yes, but that doesn't make for good sensationalistic journalism. Recognizing that there are also plenty of women (or at least 12 apparently) using facebook to get laid makes it less about the "predator" and more about the fact that people want/need sex and will do whatever it takes to get it...both men and women. Either the women were stupid (and not paying attention to the things he said/did) or they were looking for the same thing he was and now feel stupid because they're pregnant. Big deal.

    There's nothing wrong with women or men wanting sex and using facebook to get it. Lying about things in order to get sex is fairly standard practice, as despicable as it is, in real life and on the the internet... this isn't news, or at least it shouldn't be.

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @09:15AM (#30071472)

    There's an old adage that advises, "never try to apply a technical solution to a social problem." It's true here: there were no attacks that an encrypted connection to Facebook would have mitigated; toolbar installation was the user's choice, not some drive-by download; finally, product offers and hidden $10-per-month charges didn't even have anything to do with computing, except incidentally.

    While improving technical security is worthwhile, it's not something that would have helped here. You can't solve the dancing bunny [] problem without preventing users from choosing what to do with their own machines. You'd have to implement draconian and pervasive DRM, and effective give people appliances when before they had general-purpose computers. That's a cure worse than the disease.

    This problem is social, and needs a social solution. Legislation is how we collectively solve social problems. There's nothing inherently scary or sinister about law. It makes us civilized. Reading about the exploits of this CEO and the thousands like him, I can't help but think we need a lot more civilization right now.

  • by Ash Vince ( 602485 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @09:34AM (#30071618) Journal

    Actually he is right according "The Google Story" by David A Vise. Their original plan was to licence the underlying search technology to other search companies. It was only after they were stonewalled by every other search company who wanted to be able to skew results in favour of their best customers that they released their own search engine to the masses and started moving to an advertising based model.

    Even now they are very ambivalent with regard to advertising. The have the most high value piece of internet real estate in existence ( and it does not contain a single advert.

    I know many people here may have bought into the current MS and AT&T sponsored "Google is Evil" campaign, but lets not forget they were shunned by every other search engine of the time as they were to interested in giving their users the most relevant results, not the results that made them the most money. Until this changes it will always be my home page as I wonder whether Bing and Yahoo would go to revenue based results at the drop if a hat if Google were out of the picture.

  • Re:Business men (Score:2, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @10:35AM (#30072346) Journal

    So because the other parents are fools that spend ~$50/month and $600/year to support their kids' texting addiction, we should do the same?

    I vote "no" on that subject. Kids can find no-cost ways to talk to another, like email or local phone calls, like we did when we were kids. They don't need to be wasting my money on trivial bullshit (aka gossip).

  • I think you two are talking at two completely different levels. Quotemstr is saying that greed is an integral part of our make up, indeed is an integral part of any organism's make up. We all strive to have more resources. Society has been set up in such a way that everyone gets more than they would have on their own. The disruptions come from people who disrupt normal societal rules in order to gain more resources, and naturally, our outrage comes from the fact that we were playing by the rules and they weren't, yet they were rewarded for it. He is absolutely correct.

    To you, however, greed is almost a "sin" instead of a natural compulsion. It seems you'd like to focus on changing one of humanity's basic impulse, which is ironic given your signature. Abstinence doesn't work either, btw. Our laws should take in to account greed, endorse a more healthy form of greed. And by that I mean greed that serves the whole ( perhaps most importantly, me ).

    Before you respond, think on this; What's the difference between greed and ambition?

  • Re:Business men (Score:4, Insightful)

    by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @10:48AM (#30072532) Journal

    You forgot to yell at everyone to get off your lawn.

    My older (now adult) kids paid for their own airtime (pay-as-you-go phones). Once they're socially self-propelled, it's good to be able to track them down if you need them.

    And even if they're skint and out of airtime, the phone will work for 911 in an emergency, so I feel ok about that.

    Now, the younger kids... they're preschoolers, so the only cells they get are the little plastic ones with the push buttons that make "boop-boop" noises and blinky lights. Kinda like a cheap AT&T phone except with better coverage.

    Back on topic, social networking sites... I always warned the younguns to very carefully read and consider the terms of the software before installing it on their Myface or whatever page. Read those licenses in the most paranoid light possible ("What are these guys trying to put over on me"), because at least once, it'll be justified.

    It's worked so far.

  • Re:Business men (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @11:14AM (#30072898)

    Then give your kid a cell and a limited supply of messages (i.e. a money limit, telcos (at least here) offer such plans). If he wants to get more out of his money, he should get creative. There are free/cheap ways to communicate. One of the things to do when growing up is to find out how to maximize the bang for your buck, nothing wrong with them learning it early. It will help them keep their money together when they're adults.

    IMO one of the reasons why so many young people are way over their ears in debt is that they never learned that money doesn't grow on trees. ... (gawd, I sound like my dad...)

  • by bendodge ( 998616 ) <bendodge@bsgpr[ ... m ['ogr' in gap]> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @11:18AM (#30072978) Homepage Journal

    No, that just punishes the honest ones and makes the rest wealthy tax cheats.

  • Re:Business men (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveime ( 1253762 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @11:36AM (#30073240)

    It's only a minority that do asshat things like supporting their kids-text addiction to the tune of thousands of bucks.

    My girl (12 years old) gets 300 pesos load a month ($6 US) for her phone. That's good for 300 texts, or 10 a day. If she finishes them in a week, that's up to her, but's she's not getting any more till the next month.

    But as a parent, the ability to at least call her wherever she is, if she's late home from school etc, and save myself the worry / stress / potential coronary, it's a small price to pay.

    Kid's DO need cells, in the same way as kids in our day needed the latest Nikes, or a skateboard, or whatever the trend of the week was. Not just so they don't become social pariahs, but so the parents can have some peace of mind that they can be contacted in an emergency.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 12, 2009 @11:43AM (#30073354)

    So you're saying that Facebook is like the domesticated puppy-dog: while not being a viable biological (economic) entity in it's own right, it survives because it gets food and shelter (marketable private data) from people who love it because it's cute (socially enabling) even though all the shoes get chewwed (nasty toolbars get installed)?

    1/ Create a service model that people will only ever use if it's free
    2/ ??? (sad puppy-dog face)
    3/ Profit!

  • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @11:53AM (#30073510)

    I've had plenty of friends who are now not currently my friends. I wouldn't tolerate a friendship with someone who behaved in such a manner, and yes I would likely go to their manager if they were doing something like this.

    My friends understand that I hold this position.

    I watch the backs of people who are worth it.

  • by megamerican ( 1073936 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @12:17PM (#30073778)

    On Facebook the user is the product.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:29PM (#30075100)

    All you have to do is give it access to all the information you have on Facebook, and all the information of your friends on Facebook.

    Yes, that's definitely free. Free as in money, perhaps.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @03:36PM (#30077448)

    Unless "Mobsters" is one of the VERY few apps on Facebook that agrees to restricted access rights, you've given it access to all the data you have on Facebook, and anything that you can see of your friends' data. Without installing anything but the app.

    Now, since Mobsters is continually trying to get you to buy into scams, what do you suppose they've done with your e-mail address? All the e-mail addresses of your friends? Any phone numbers? Etc?

    You may not be the sucker who signs up for a credit card so you can get some points in a game, but you have given an acknowledged scammer a bunch of personal information on yourself and your friends, which has undoubtedly been sold to several someones you would prefer didn't have that information.

  • Re:Business men (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bar-agent ( 698856 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @09:47PM (#30082440)

    I graduated from high school 17 years ago and didn't get a cell phone until five years ago. Worked fine for me. Maybe if kids didn't have such easy access to cell phones, they'd spend a bit more school time actually learning.

    What's that got to do with anything? No high-schooler had a cell phone 17 years ago. You all (actually we all, since I'm in that age bracket too) had land-line phones, probably, and you'd arrange get-togethers at school or right when you got home. Or maybe after dinner. Now, though, all high-schoolers have cell phones and they arrange things via SMS. There are no "scheduled" communications. Unless you have SMS, you are out of the loop. And this includes study get-togethers. A high-schooler without a cell phone may have an educational disadvantage, as well as being socially screwed.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham