Thursday, January 03, 2008

Facebook prevents scraping of profiles

Apparently Facebook has banned Robert Scoble and suspended his account after Facebook determined he was violating the terms of service by using an automated script to "move his social graph" (Facebook disabled my account « Scobleizer — Tech geek blogger). What he was apparently doing was using a script or some other automated tool to "export" information related to his 5000 friends to import the data into Plaxo (What I was using to hit Facebook — unreleased Plaxo Pulse « Scobleizer — Tech geek blogger). Facebook lets you import data from Gmail and other services, but it's a one way street.

His account has been restored, but I hope this spurs some debate over the portability of one's own data, particularly if that includes data about others.

In my view, I think that Facebook is right to prevent this sort of scraping. Facebook is different from your usual address book. There's much more information being shared on social networking sites. Perhaps imprudently, many users add as friends people they really don't know and (un)wittingly expose sensitive information. A facebook profile not only lists that individual in question, but his or her friends.

All of this means that information from a Facebook is more prone to be abused in a manner that the individual may not anticipate. If I add Scoble (or you) as a friend on Facebook, I think I have a good sense of what may happen to that information on Facebook. But I have no clue about what can happen when that information is taken off a trusted platform into some other, unknown, system. It's a bit chilling and Facebook is correct to take the position it has.

There's some additional coverage here: The Scoble scuffle: Facebook, Plaxo at odds over data portability The Social - CNET, but you should also read the comments on Scoble's own posts as they represent an interesting slice of opinion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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