Facebook “Thinking” Of Offering Mass Contact Export Since 2004
photo Â© 2010 Digitpedia Com | more info (via: Wylio)The flames of contact info-gate got stoked again this holiday weekend with the release of a particularly inflammatory Google Chrome Extension â€œFacebook Doesnâ€™t Own My Friends.â€ The extension was taken down minutes after our post went up and I have still heard no word from Facebook or Google on which was responsible for the shut down (my guess is that Facebook changed its email displays from text over to images before Google could pull the extension).
When asked about the issue at Web 2.0 Summit, Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that he wasnâ€™t sure that Facebook was â€œ100% right” in preventing Gmail or other third party apps from crawling the site, and referred to the difference between information you yourself put into an email application versus information put into a social network by people you’ve chosen to befriend as a factor in what the eventual universal export policy will be, “We’re trying to think through these things and be respectful of all the forces that are at play.” In other words, itâ€™s complicated.
While Facebook â€œthinks through these things,â€ it seem to making some bold moves, from kicking off power user Robert Scoble for trying to scrape his contacts through Plaxo in 2008 to eliminating the Gmail option entirely from â€œFind My Friendsâ€ while allowing unlimited (albeit problematic) contact info access to partners Yahoo and Hotmail.
To give us a better sense of the evolution of Facebookâ€™s contact info policy, a tipster who might have been the first person to attempt mass Facebook email scraping, sent us the below string of support emails between himself and Facebook proto-employee Dustin Moskovitz, resulting from attempts to aggregate the contact info of everyone in the Princeton network in 2004.
On Aug 22, 2004, at 7:52 PM, thefacebook – General Information wrote:
I deactivated your account because of a security violation. Let me know what you were up to if you’re interested in getting it back.
Dustin @ thefacebook
On Sun, 22 Aug 2004, xxx xxxx wrote:
I have written a script to go and collect the picture, cell phoneÂ number, birthday, hometown, and year of everyone at Princeton. Then,Â using the princeton ldap directory, I looked up information like roomÂ phone number, room address, and email address. I then exported all ofÂ this in vCard format, to be imported into my mac’s Address BookÂ program, and put on my iPod.
â€œThe Web site is for the personal use of individual Members only and mayÂ not be used in connection with any commercial endeavors. Organizations,Â companies, and/or businesses may not become Members and should not useÂ the Service or the Web site for any purpose. Illegal and/orÂ unauthorized uses of the Web site, including collecting email addressesÂ of members by electronic or other means for the purpose of sending unsolicited email and unauthorized framing of or linking to the WebÂ site will be investigated, and appropriate legal action will be taken,Â including without limitation, civil, criminal, and injunctive redress.”
If you want me to stop, I’ll stop. It’s your site. However, if you areÂ concerned with an overuse issue rather than a privacy issue, I wouldÂ appreciate it if you would allow me to continue where I left off, whichÂ is at Katy Bacon. I wouldn’t mind setting it to run at night, in smallÂ batches, or whatever. But again, if you don’t want me to do it, I won’t
do it, no questions asked.â€
I guess I’d appreciate getting the xxx xxx account back, butÂ nobody needs or uses the ulink account.
Look forward to hearing from you,
From: thefacebook – General Information <email@example.com>
Date: August 22, 2004 6:33:11 PM PDT
To: xxxxxx <xxxxxx@Princeton.EDU>
Subject: Re: Security Violation
So the slowdown isn’t really an issue, but we pretty much don’t wantÂ people to aggregate the information available on the website. Part of theÂ reason people are willing to provide so much information is because of theÂ security and privacy we built into the site.
We are in the process of developing a feature where you can export vcardsÂ for your friends (one of them, or all of them at once) and we’ll probablyÂ release it relatively soon. I’d appreciate it if you would use thatÂ instead of collecting info on everyone at Princeton.
I’ve reactivated your account.
The moral of this blast from the past? The more things change the more things stay the same, other than that whole â€œNo businesses on Facebook thing.” Well maybe we could also amend Moskovitzâ€™sÂ â€œWe pretty much don’t wantÂ people to aggregate the information available on the website,â€ statement with â€œunless of course they are an ad partner.â€
The most interesting thing is about this exchange is that even in 2004, Moskovitz realized the sheer utility of being able to export your Â Facebook Friend contacts (as opposed to everyone at Princeton) and explicitly references a feature in the works where you could export VCards for your Friends. After all you built those relationships.
That mythical VCard feature, which never actually appeared, sounds similar to the universal export that Facebook took advantage of when Google took away access to its API and would allow you to do exactly what the short-lived Google Chrome extension did on Friday before it was shut down. Hereâ€™s to hoping the feature will one day see the light of day.
- How To Mass Export All Of Your Facebook Friends’ Private Email Addresses
- The Address Book Wars Continue: Facebook Contact-Scraping Chrome Extension Taken Down
- Inevitable! Google Chrome Extension Exports Your Facebook Contacts
- Facebook API Bug Deletes Contact Info On Phones
- Is a New Orkut-to-Facebook Export Feature What’s Crashing Facebook?