Google Calendar should prevent spam by default

For a couple of months now, I've been getting spammy calendar notifications on my phone. Each of them is coming from Google Calendar itself, and they're all coming from my own calendar. Just like everybody else on the planet, I hate spam. So I poked around a bit.

When I opened my calendar, I found it was full of spammy events like this one...

Google Calendar Spam

So, had my Google account been compromised? Was somebody using my credentials to add these events? Nope. They were sending me email messages with calendar invites, and Gmail was automatically adding those calendar events, notification settings included, to my calendar. In many cases, I had never even seen the email messages involved. Maybe they were in my spam folder? (If so, that's pretty bad.) Maybe they weren't initially sent to my spam folder, but Gmail re-categorized them later after Calendar imported the event? (I've seen Gmail re-categorize things as spam after they hit my inbox, so this seems plausible.) Maybe it's a bug?

Thankfully, this was easy to fix. Simply open up Google Calendar settings (this was in the web interface, not sure if this setting exists in the mobile app), and uncheck this handy little box.

Google calendar auto import setting

Of course, even though it's now fixed, I can't help but think that Google should clamp down on this, immediately. Options that make sense to me include:

  • By default, don't automatically import events from Gmail. If I agree to attend the event, then add it.
  • Only automatically import events from Gmail if the event comes from somebody in my contact list (or organization for work accounts).
  • Don't import notification settings for automatically imported events.

It's even more important for Google to tackle this as quickly as possible because a a single spam message is capable of spamming you for eternity. If a less tech-savvy user gets one of these emails, and it sets up an event that recurs every week until the sun explodes, they'll be getting that spam notification forever. This is not OK.

10 Responses

  1. Eugen Hotaj February 22, 2018 / 8:05 pm

    I’d say this is more of an issue with GMail than Google Calendar. But both products owned by google so def one of the two should do something about it.

  2. Anon February 23, 2018 / 8:59 am

    Google is fundamentally an advertising company.

    Therefore their interests (pushing ads to keep the revenue flowing in) do not align with your interests (you don’t want to see unwanted ads).

    Where these two interests miss-align, the path that results in “extra income for Google” will be the path that Google chooses.

    Your only choice is not to use their offerings, because when you use anything Google you are not Google’s customer, you are Google’s product (well, your attention is their product). Their true customer is the one paying them (the advertisers).

    • daynebatten February 26, 2018 / 8:22 am

      1) Google’s not getting revenue from these spam calendar invites. They make money off of real ads.

      2) Even though Google’s customers are ultimately advertisers, they also have an incentive to keep their users happy. If they don’t have any users, they don’t have anybody to show ads to, and they lose their real customers (the advertisers).

      Allowing spam to seep through to my calendar doesn’t help Google in any way.

  3. Pssst3 February 23, 2018 / 10:55 am

    Another article from someone who wished=s that they lived in a Nanny State, and I agree.

    Those who are too ignorant to know how to configure the apps they use . . . probably shouldn’t be using computers without supervison.

    Calendar has very few setting, all logically arranged in a scroll window.

    When I got my first so-called spam notification, and saw it on my Calendar, it took me less than a minute to find the setting and disable automaticallt adding events.

    The only thing that Google should consider doing is not having this function enabled by default.

    • daynebatten February 26, 2018 / 8:27 am

      I’m not even really sure how to respond to this? I’ve never mentioned the government at all – so not sure how the Nanny State comes into play. I’m also not sure why you think it’s OK for companies to set settings to a bad state by default just because people can change them? Isn’t it better to have a more user-friendly default? Especially when the stakes are so high – keeping people from getting a virus, or getting scammed, or whatever. And I won’t even address the bit about “ignorant” people not using computers without supervision.

      Finally, the last suggestion you make is literally what I propose in the article.

  4. OLAOLORY March 5, 2018 / 10:13 am

    Thanks a lot for the article post.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

  5. Jim V June 4, 2018 / 10:16 am

    I have deselected “Events from Gmail” in my account on my PC, but i still continue to receive spam invites from the same email address via Gmail on my Android Galaxy 8 phone. I checked to ensure the email was not added to my Contacts. These Gmail’s do go to my spam folder but continue to produce embarrassing Event pop-up alerts, 2 per day.

    What else can i check? Please help.

    • daynebatten August 10, 2018 / 12:11 pm

      Have you looked to see if there are events lingering in your calendar? You may have to go delete old events…

  6. ZW November 16, 2018 / 12:09 am

    Spammers are also adding invites by using your email as an invitee in their own calendar to generate an invite without an email notice. Change settings to not auto add to calendar unless you RSVP. Google team needs to prevent this by adding a default action to only allow invites from existing contacts, and a while/black list option for calendar invites. Only then will it be stopped.

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