Facebook Freshmen, Watch Out For Roomsurf

Roomsurf has been presenting itself to high school seniors as a paid service for finding roommates on Facebook.

Weird and bordering on creepy, Roomsurf has been presenting itself to high school seniors as a paid service for finding roommates on Facebook.

The company has little influence over how colleges match up roommates, but charges $4.95 to $9.95 for that, the New York Times reported. Prosepective students might be able to request each other as roomies after meeting one another in the groups Roomsurf has created on Facebook.

Roomsurf appears to have formed groups for more than 150 different colleges’ incoming class of 2015. Each has the school’s logo and a welcome message, with no reference to the fact that the school didn’t create the group.

The Times has suggested that Roomsurf may be engaging in deceptive marketing tactics, quoting an official from Hamilton College to that effect.

Not using your real name on Facebook goes against the site’s rules, but whether this company’s founder has crossed the line has yet to be called. We’ve asked spokespeople for the social network whether any rules have been broken here and will let you know what we find out.

The Facebook groups list the creator as Justin Blackwell, and on LinkedIn you can find that Roomsurf’s co-founder and chief executive officer is Justin Gaither.

He told the Times on the telephone that Blackwell is his middle name. But you can’t message him on his Facebook page if you’re not already his friend.

Meanwhile, Roomsurf’s webpage now has a sign saying its under construction — actually, it’s written on an eraseable whiteboard on a dorm room door filling the entire screen.

Apparently Gaither had gotten some flak from colleges earlier this year and told the Washington Post’s blog that he would become more transparent in his doings on Facebook. All he did since then was drop the U from the original name of his company, URoomsurf.com.

Update: We’d sent him a friend request so we could talk to him, and then asked Facebook if Justin was violating any of the site’s rules. We received the following response:

We have disabled the account of the person who created these groups for violating our policies. He has been removed as an admin from all groups. The content of the groups does not violate our policies, and the remaining admins all appear to be actual students at these colleges and universities – and not affiliated with Roomsurf.com. Since the groups do not violate our policies, we’ve left them active.

Readers, what do you think about Roomsurf’s doings on Facebook?