Feeds

Facebook snuffs Chrome extension for uncaging 'friends' data

What your friends share with you is not yours

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Facebook has blocked a Google Chrome extension that let you export information about your Facebook "friends" so that data can be shuttled into competing services.

Known as Facebook Friends Exporter, the extension had become particularly popular of late as a means of moving "friends data" into Google's latest Facebook challenger – Google+ – and it was profiled in a recent Cnet story as a handy tool for Google+ converts.

Apparently, this caught the eye of the data police at Facebook. On Tuesday – according to Mohamed Mansour, the independent developer of Facebook Friends Exporter – Zuckerberg and company began blocking the extension. "Facebook is trying so hard to not allow you to export your friends," he said on the extension's homepage. "It will no longer work for many people."

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the extension would seem to violate its terms of service. "You will not collect users’ content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our permission," the terms read.

Like many others, Mansour believes that Facebookers have an inherent right to data involving their friends. "Get *your* data contact out of Facebook, whether they want you to or not. You gave them your friends and allowed them to store that data, and you have right to take it back out! Facebook doesn't own my friends," reads the description of his extension.

Clearly, Facebook is determined to protect its most valuable asset: your so-called "social graph". The social networking outfit has long refused to provide a simple means of exporting friends-related data. Last November, Google launched a protest, preventing Facebook from accessing the Google Contacts API, which had allowed new Facebookers to import contact info from Gmail. Google said it would not allow access to the API until Facebook offered a similar API.

Which only shows you how valuable that data is. Information about your friends and acquaintances can be used to target ads – both at Facebook and at Google. And Facebook knows that people come to its site primarily because that's where their friends are.

Facebook does allow you to export a list of your friends, but this is no more than a series of names. It does not include email addresses or other contact information. According to Mark Zuckerberg, users don't really "own" the email addresses of their Facebook friends.

"Email is a little bit different from social networks," he has said. "In an email program, if you have an address book, you put all the addresses in there, so that's very much your information. In a social network ... if you upload a photo album or a blog post, that's yours. But there's information that's clearly not yours, [such as] someone else's photo album. But then there's information that's somewhere in the middle – maybe a photo you took but I tagged.

"What are my rights to that? What should I be able to do with your email address if we're friends and I can see your email address?"

It should be noted, however, that Facebook lets you export addresses to email services run by partners such as Microsoft and Yahoo!. And it lets you import email addresses from various third-party email services. Surely, you "own" those addresses.

Facebook Friends Exporter is designed to collect data about your Facebook friends that they have shared with you, including emails, phone numbers, and birthdays. You can export this data into a .CSV file or you can move it directly into Gmail. From there, it's a relatively easy leap to Google+. The extension can only be used with the English language version of Facebook.

On the extension's homepage, Mansour vowed to work around Facebook's block. "New version with a different design is currently deploying. You might have to do exports daily. It uses a different approach, and I will maintain this version," he said. "Just bear with me." ®

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes
Phone egg, meet desktop chicken - your mother
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.