Grovo – Taking Advantage of Those Who Need It? Spam, spam, spam spam…

TL;DR Summary: Grovo set up their service to spam the entire address book of new users by default, multiple times.

Update 03/12/2013: Grovo has reached out to me about this piece and corrected the situation for my relative. I will give them full marks for their responsiveness.

Update 06/20/2013: Despite conversations last quarter, the process remains largely the same, with some slight language tweaks to the first screen and only 2 emails instead of 3. I’ll still continue to refer people to them, but caution them about this dark side about the service.

Update 10/03/2013: No change. Still no control over how they use your contact list once accepted, nor insight into how many people they’ve contacted in your name.


I’m a fan of Grovo. When a dear relative of mine recently wanted to make sure she was making full use of LinkedIn and learn more about managing Facebook pages, it was only natural I refer her to it.

To her great dismay, she discovered over the next couple of weeks, Grovo had been emailing everyone in her contact list. She was getting a huge amount of complaints, so I took a look at the sign-up process to see how this happened.

Firstly, when you sign up for Grovo, you create an account or sign in with Facebook. Here’s the “gotcha” – if you sign up for a Grovo account with a Gmail account, it recognizes that and presents you with the following message:


Perfectly reasonable seeming info-box – find people on Grovo you already know. At this point, however, there’s no apparent reason you’d want to find friends. You then have to authorize Grovo to have access to your Google Account, suggesting that it will scan your Contacts:


Once you’ve granted access, this very strange message shows up:


Why do I call this strange? Because hitting either giant “Finish!” button leaves “Select All” checked, which it does by default (a HUGE no-no). This is granting Grovo to email up to 3 emails to every person in your Gmail Contacts.

Try as I might, I could find nowhere in the entire site that would allow you to revoke that privilege. This means that when you get that first angry phone call, there’s no way to prohibit Grovo from sending “up to two reminders” right after it.

I did also find this wretched set of settings, where Grovo sets every email form they offer to defaulted on. Opt-out, rather than opt-in.


Clearly, Grovo is banking on every method of growth they can spam or buy, as this was in the sidebar:


If you want to revoke Grovo’s access to your Google Account, it’s a long sequence of steps over in your Gmail account:

First, head to Settings under the Gear:


Under the Accounts and Import tab, select Other Google Account settings:


Click through the Security section and scroll to the very bottom and click on Manage Access:


Finally, you’ll be able to revoke access to Grovo:


Sadly, I have absolutely no idea if this prohibits Grovo from sending additional notifications.

Grovo: you need to review this unacceptable behavior.

As the user (often tech neophytes), you have no idea who has been sent these emails or how many times. You have no idea which contacts will or will not be emailed. You can’t do anything to stop emails once you’ve realized what a monumental mistake you’ve made and people legitimately complain.

Things you need to do:

  1. Make it much clearer that you’ll be emailing people multiple times by agreeing to notify friends.
  2. Make it not email everyone (or anyone) by default.
  3. Make it much easier to stop ALL emails from going out
  4. Make it much easier to remove people from the list of “friends who will receive reminders”
  5. Make a clear log of all the emails that went out from Grovo on behalf of the user. I’d want to know if Grovo sent 1 or 100 emails “from” me.
  6. Ask the user which email types they want during sign up

I like you, I will continue to refer people to you. You don’t need to offer me an incentive if your offering is strong (spend $10 and a couple hours to read the amazing The Referral Engine). But, now I’m going to have to caution people to sign up very carefully to not spam everyone they know, as well as to not get “spam” themselves. For an amazing web company in 2013, you shouldn’t need some random guy on the internet telling you the basic ethics of opt-in and emailing contacts.

About the author

Jeremy Vyska Jeremy is a technology enthusiast and often plays the part of "wise old man" to his friends and peers.