Facebook Bans Data Export Tool In An Act Of Desperation: What Are They Scared of?

 @AmruthaGayathri on July 12 2011 3:59 AM
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg Reuters

Web is moving forward to an era of seamless integration, with better technologies in place and with a better understanding of users' digital rights. Open source codes and data protocols were prerequisites in the evolution of web as we see it now. Cloud is here and it is simply a matter of time, before the web integrates platforms, no matter who the provider of a particular service or platform is. Operating as separate entities on web wouldn't make much sense in future, just like it doesn't for mobile phone networks now. If mobile networks allowed voice calls and text messages only among their respective network users, the market would witness unhealthy monopoly or complete mess.

However, for some incomprehensible reason Facebook simply wants to shut all doors and develop the network inside its own boundaries. In a matter of days, Facebook slammed the door for Open-Xchange's OX.IO export tool - A service which merge data from all your networks and address books to create your magic address book.

This is the second time in a week Facebook has shut the exit door for data that users upload. In an act that can be called the height of desperation, Facebook had earlier blocked a Google Chrome extension developed for exporting Facebook Friends' lists to Google's hot social networking venture Google+.

According to Facebook, the app violates its terms of service, but Open-Xchange says we are not violating anything.

Open-Xchange's export tool, currently in its beta version, is designed to help users consolidate contact data, and originally worked with Facebook, Gmail, GMX.de, LinkedIn, Yahoo!, SugarCRM, and a few others.

To block the Chrome extension developed by a third party, Facebook had changed its OAuth (Open Authorization) 2.0 API in such a way that it suddenly removed e-mail addresses from the queries without warning; something which Facebook did again, against OX.IO, to avoid Facebook users grab their own data and run.

Facebook's take

Facebook says that the tool has two violations: Using a user's friend list outside of the application even if a user consents to such use and using a user's friends' data in the context of the user's experience on your application. But Open X-change note that Yahoo apparently have the import functionality that Facebook is denying to OX.IO.

Facebook has a history of denying users their rights to own their content

In a way, we hoped Facebook wasn't that stupid, says Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange, adding that Facebook's move would make sense if the company had been scraping user content. What is unexpected, and in my view stupid, is that FB slammed the door even though we used a very clean method to enable users to get their friends list. All private data, like the email addresses of the friends, will only be made available by the tool if those users have shared emails with the user already, so the address doesn't come from Facebook.

Facebook, which has had its issues with privacy infringement, also has a history of open entry and closed exit. In April 2010, at the f8 developer conference, Facebook rolled out an Open Door for importing data collected about their users from any partner site on the Web. Apparently Facebook believes that it is OK to import (read steal) user data freely from other sites through Facebook plug-ins, to track user behavior just like many other ad networks or analytics tool. 

It's high time Facebook understood that the data uploaded by the users, including their contacts, belong to the users. And not to the social network they entrusted the data with, for any period of time. If a user chooses to withdraw his personal information out of the site, Facebook can by no means stop him/her by employing restrictions on third-party applications.

As Rohit Khare, an expert in Internet standards, says, Facebook sounds like Hotel California: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

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