Tech

Can you imagine Slack letting people DM strangers in another org? Think of the abuse. Oh wait, it did do that

Slack, which became popular as a team chat app in part because it’s not email, is now letting users invite anyone, via email, to correspond using direct messages in the Slack app.

The collaboration biz, in the process of being acquired by Salesforce, announced the service, called Slack Connect Direct Messages, last October and made it available on Wednesday. It’s part of Slack Connect, which provides a way to bring as many as 20 separate organizations into a single Slack channel.

Slack says the capability is available to individuals on Free, Standard, Plus, and Enterprise Grid plans, though the ability to manage Slack Connect settings and permissions not available to those on the Free plan.

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“Slack Connect allows you to send direct messages (DMs) to people outside your company, providing an easy way to work with your partners,” the company explains in a help center document. “Once an invitation has been sent and accepted, you can begin exchanging messages with someone from another organization, just like you would in other DMs.”

In Slack’s desktop client, the process involves clicking the compose button in the top left-hand corner of one’s workspace and entering the recipient’s email address in the To: field. The recipient will receive a unique link in an email that can be used by one person, and a message if one was included.

Or at least that was the way it worked when it debuted. Word of the change has prompted some alarm among those who adopted Slack primarily because of its high signal-to-noise ratio.

Hello, users here!

“It could potentially suck,” observed John Paul Minda, professor of psychology at Western University, via Twitter. “The only reason I pay for and use @SlackHQ is [because] it’s a closed system with my students [and] lab. The very first sign of getting an unsolicited message from anyone outside my lab (a.k.a. Spam), I’ll cancel and just switch to Teams.”

To which Slack, mindful of social media chatter, responded that Slack Connect DMs can be deactivated by workspace owners and administrators.

Accepting an emailed Connect DM invitation requires the receiving party to opt-in by clicking on the link and may require further approval from one or both admins responsible for the communicating parties, via the Manage shared channels menu.

Nonetheless, there’s concern about the potential for abuse, particularly given Slack’s past refusal to implement a muting or blocking capability to silence workplace harassment and its reiteration of that policy on Wednesday.

Confronted with evidence that customized invitations can easily be weaponized to spam people with harassment and abuse, Slack has committed to dropping that capability, even though the company appears to have been aware of the issue a week ago.

“After rolling out Slack Connect DMs this morning, we received valuable feedback from our users about how email invitations to use this feature could potentially be used to send abusive or harassing messages,” said Jonathan Prince, VP of communications and policy, in a statement to CNN. “We are taking immediate steps to prevent this kind of abuse, beginning today with the removal of the ability to customize a message when a user invites someone to Slack Connect DMs.”

In other words, you can send invites, you just can’t stick your rude messages in them from the get go.

And that doesn’t resolve other issues, like the corporate policy complications that arise when people working for different organizations open a channel to one another or the fact that while Slack messages are encrypted in transit and at rest, they may still be accessible to account owners and administrators, depending on whether the account is free or paid.

To win over the unconvinced, Slack may find that further marketing is necessary… ®




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