Quite a major kerfuffle has developed in the past 24 hours over Facebook booting Robert Scoble out of the social network.
Blogosphere opinion about this issue seems more or less evenly divided if linked discussions shown on Techeme are any indicator, on support for Robert or support for Facebook’s action.
Either way, it throws a bright spotlight on data portability and who owns your data on a social network.
What’s prompted this post is an interesting angle to the story by Michael Arrington writing in TechCrunch:
[...] [Plaxo] developed optical character recognition software to recognize email addresses and add them to the export.
Facebook doesn’t like this, of course. But it isn’t Plaxo that’s paying the price. It’s the journalists and bloggers who’ve been testing out the service.
[...] Plaxo was certainly aware of the risk. In an email from the company asking me to try the service last week, they said “We don’t know whether Facebook will try to shut us down (despite their increasing verbal support for the concepts of open-ness), so we want to let a few key folks have access to the functionality before we make it available to everyone.”
Yeah, they guessed right. Plaxo started running automated scripts against Facebook without any warning or discussion with them beforehand, in violation of their terms of service and, I’ll add, common sense. Of course users were shut down. Facebook must regulate this kind of behavior, without it the service would crumble.
So let me get this right.
It seems to me that the relevant part that addresses this is in the paragraph headed ‘Proprietary Rights in Site Content; Limited License’:
So tell me – what envelope is being pushed here? Investigating new ways of connecting the dots, or getting to the limits of common sense?
Robert posts the content of an email he received from Facebook which contains this interesting caveat:
[...] Since you contacted us and have agreed not to run the script again, we have reactivated your account. You should now be able to log in with your normal email and password. In the future, please refrain from running these types of scripts again.
Some will no doubt say this has all been just a storm in a tea cup. Far from it, in my view.
Not sure I like this ends justifies the means approach. Bet we see more of it, though.