We’re seeing some appalling behaviour from social networking wannabe Quechup, which is conducting a massive spam campaign on a scale not seen since the heady days of Dr Mariam Abacha.

If trust is everything, then this is the sort of thing that can kill a brand. Quechup is potentially in a lot of trouble with its users, and legally it is skating on very thin ice.

The problem? You sign up and give Quechup your email password, as is typical with joining most social networks these days, ostensibly to see if your friends have existing profiles so you can connect with them.

But Quechup goes one unauthorised step further – if you sign up it will sneakily invite everybody in your address book to join up, without your permission.

The contrast in its actual behaviour versus what it promises in its privacy policy / terms and conditions could not be greater: “Quechup will not spam or sell addresses from your contacts”. So much for all that…

What else does it say in its policies? Here are a couple of other chestnuts:

“Illegal and/or unauthorized uses of the Website, including collecting usernames and/or email addresses of members by electronic or other means for the purpose of sending unsolicited email and unauthorized framing of or linking to the Website will be investigated, and appropriate legal action will be taken, including without limitation, civil, criminal, and injunctive redress.”

And, joyously…

“Quechup.com and our members do not tolerate Spam. Therefore, without limiting the foregoing, you are not licensed to add a Quechup.com member to your mail list (email or physical mail) without their express written consent after adequate disclosure.”

Damn right its members do not tolerate spam. MY Sun Editor Ilana Fox, who ‘invited’ me to join the network said:

“Quechup spammed every single person in my Google contacts at 5am this morning when I was fast asleep. In response I’ve had dozens of emails from friends and colleagues all asking if I’m an insomniac and commenting on my nerve. That people would think I would send emails like this is embarrassing professionally, and I’m incredibly annoyed that any company would think it’s acceptable behaviour to take people’s personal contacts and use them in this manner. Social networking? Unsocial networking more like.”

Quechup has been quiet so far, despite a growing number of critical reports in the tech media and blogosphere. Mitch Ratcliffe over at ZDNet sums it up best when he describes the site as a “social cancer”.

Quechup isn’t new – it launched in November 2005 as a dating site with a “unique” mobile element, allowing users to receive “notifications and profiles”. Since then it has reinvented itself as a generic social site, where users can blog, network, play games, chat online, and so on.

With this latest horseshit spam campaign, one wonders whether anybody will be still using it by the time it reaches its second birthday.