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Facebook Sued Over Data Access

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the your-information-wants-to-be-free-but-not-ours dept.

Privacy 73

Late last year, a web service called Power.com launched with the aim of allowing users to unify their use of multiple social networks. Facebook quickly filed a lawsuit, objecting to the (user-authorized) gathering of their data. Reader sufijazz writes with news that Power.com has now countersued Facebook, saying, "Facebook improperly restricts its users' access to their private information," and that Facebook's own data scraping makes their lawsuit an attempt to stifle competition. According to TechCrunch, "Facebook can point to its efforts with Facebook Connect, which lets you log in with your Facebook username at third party sites and import some select data from your profile, as evidence of its openness. But this isn't true data portability, it's just a new walled garden — third parties are generally only allowed to cache your data, which means that you're still tethered to Facebook."

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Well (4, Interesting)

Idiot with a gun (1081749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657095)

This is an interesting change. I'd rather Facebook be too stingy with my information, as compared to the usual loose attitude towards user's data and data security that most companies seem to have. Better safe than sorry.

Re:Well (5, Insightful)

maharb (1534501) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657141)

I think this has more to do with you wanting to move your data, not them just handing it out. There is a huge difference.

This example is more related to you going to a hospital and requesting your health records be transferred to another hospital and they say no. Don't get it confused with privacy/security.

Re:Well (2, Interesting)

MadFarmAnimalz (460972) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658499)

I think this has more to do with you wanting to move your data, not them just handing it out. There is a huge difference.

I don't really agree. The bits aren't being loaded carefully in moving boxes and transported by truck. Copies of digitally stored information are cheap and if you own your own data facebook shouldn't have any objections to you using your own data elsewhere.

Placing bits of information on a pedestal like they were a Gutenberg bible is a bit like the thinking behind disallowing copying of a DVD for backup purposes. You can't really own bits, and the information they represent isn't facebook's to begin with.

Re:Well (2, Insightful)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658549)

Whoosh. GPs point is that data SHOULD be moveable, same as yours.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28660115)

did you actually read the post you were replying to?

Re:Well (2, Informative)

AlexBirch (1137019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657163)

I think you didn't RTFA, they are being stingy to you with your data.

Technically true, but really ... (4, Insightful)

SpeedyDX (1014595) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657271)

Yeah, technically they're withholding your data from a third party even after your authorization. But if you consider the vast majority of Facebook users, don't you think most of them need this kind of hand-holding? These are people who would authorize a complete disclosure of most of their personal information on Facebook to take a "Which Twilight Character Are You?" quiz. If anything, I think Facebook should be even more stingy, even if you choose to authorize disclosure. If you really really really really really wanted to give a third party your personal information, then you can usually do so yourself, without the third party acquiring that information through Facebook.

Now, I don't know how power.com works, nor did I RTFA, but I assume it requires certain information from Facebook that is not really yours. Information such as links to your profile, your friends' profiles, pictures, groups, what-have-you. Such information is probably strictly Facebook's property. Without such information, power.com would be useless anyway.

At any rate, as I said, if you really wanted to give your personal information to a third party, you can do so without the help of Facebook. Facebook's stinginess at releasing personal information is a good thing, and I think they should go even further in their stinginess. Personal information sometimes isn't removed from third party apps even after removal of the app, and I think Facebook should start using the ban hammer on apps and developers who keep personal information even after deauthorization. I think such stinginess can only be a good thing, until they start withholding your personal information from you directly.

Re:Technically true, but really ... (3, Insightful)

AlexBirch (1137019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657351)

I think this lawsuit is good, because then the court can decide what is yours and what isn't. It's like selling your organs, yes they're yours but the law says you can't legally waive your rights to them. Even if you click a million checkboxes or sign forms.

I would love the fact if Facebook was being stingy with my information to advertisers, but they're not. Or what if I could select what information to send to applications, instead of the all or nothing approach. It sucks when they're only stingy with their users not their customers (aka their advertisers).

I'm nonplussed, when it's Microsoft we're all for interoperability. When it's Apple, Google or Facebook it's alright not to give users their rights. I guess I missed the memo.
~~~
Abraham Lincoln "Stand with anyone that is right; stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong."
--Abe Lincoln

Re:Technically true, but really ... (3, Insightful)

Finder83 (829130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657417)

I think this lawsuit is good, because then the court can decide what is yours and what isn't.

Yes, since the national government has a long history of supporting individual privacy and keeping our best interests at mind over that of corporate interests.

Re:Technically true, but really ... (2, Insightful)

AlexBirch (1137019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657465)

How can this case make the situation worse? It can only reinforce the de facto standard.
Also this is corporate interest versus corporate interest, not citizens against Facebook. It would be nice to see the EFF or ACLU get involved.

Re:Technically true, but really ... (2, Interesting)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657767)

This is pretty much what I'm thinking. I've already got tons of people asking me why I don't respond to their messages because facebook randomly closed off my access to my account (used for overglorified email really) but left it fully open and searchable. I've tried about 4 times now to get it at least locked down so people can't keep finding it anymore but all I get is the runaround about how that is what they do (hint: they don't) and how it won't ever be reactivated.

Call me a curmudgeon... (2, Insightful)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657579)

Disclaimer: I do not have a Facebook account.

Please cite for me an actual benefit of having a Facebook account?

Otherwise - GET OFF MY LAWN!

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28657699)

online phone book for when you format your computer, but forget to backup your contact's list.
other than that... it's just another pointless social page

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28657727)

Same as most social pages, keep track of people without needing/hoping they have a phone when you might have lost their contact info and you happen to live over a wide geographical area.

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (3, Insightful)

nbates (1049990) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657785)

You can keep track of long lost friends.

In my case, I changed city about 6 times, and changed school about 5 times. (no, I wasn't raised in a circus) So there is a lot of people that I knew but lost track of.

I joined Facebook some weeks ago and now I have about 50 "recovered friends", that is, people that used to be my friends but then I lost touch. I chatted with some, said happy birthday to others, etc.

It would have been more difficult finding them without facebook, since finding each friend manually would be a PITA, and also very non-casual. I mean, how do you get in touch with a kindergarden friend? You don't just call him and tell him "hey, I noticed your name was on the phone book and so I called to say hi". Instead, requesting to "become friend" over facebook is something casual.

Once you get in touch you can just write silly things like "I hate this TV host" or "Today I feel sad". Or you can post old photos or whatever. That gives your friends a chance to see what you are up to and maybe start an actual conversation or schedule a real life encounter (want to come to my birthday this saturday?) And since you are broadcasting to everybody you don't put anyone in particular in the position of having to answer.

It is similar to an msn account, only that you can just broadcast whatever you want and wait to see if somebody answers. Just like bloging, but directed to people you kind-of-know.

I think having an open standard to such service would be great, just as it would be great to have an open standard to IM, and just as it is great to have an open standard to email. Maybe Wave will change this in the near future. I think of this as a way of taking my friends with me wherever I go.

The advantage of facebook is that they have a huge database of "name"->"email" entries, so once you sign up you find out hundreds of people you know. In part, their success is due to spamish practices like sending invitations to all your IM or email contacts (at your request).

There are probably other uses, but this is one I can think of.

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (2, Insightful)

unity (1740) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658091)

"In my case, I changed city about 6 times, and changed school about 5 times. (no, I wasn't raised in a circus) So there is a lot of people that I knew but lost track of. I joined Facebook some weeks ago and now I have about 50 "recovered friends", that is, people that used to be my friends but then I lost touch. I chatted with some, said happy birthday to others, etc."

^That right there is why I will never get a facebook account. If I want people I used to know and associate with to make contact with me just so we can renew and some fake pseudo-online friendship. Hell, I they might be people I moved to get away from. :)
People I actually care about, I stay in touch with and have contact information, I don't need facebook for that. But hey, if you like/want that, more power to you.

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (1)

nbates (1049990) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658139)

You don't have to have everybody on your facebook account. I know there is people I found on facebook but I never asked to join me.

And maybe you call it fake because you think of it as a friendship. It is not a friendship, it is a relationship, period. Of course I have friends, and I keep in touch with those. But there are also this people who "was cool back then", and now I have them on my facebook account, and I get interesing feedback when I post a fortune cookie. Not a disruptive technology, I know... but it is entertaining.

Anyway, you don't have to do it. Not everything is for everybody. I was just sharing my experience. It is a good tool for my needs and personality. Maybe it is not for yours.

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (1)

unity (1740) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658293)

"Anyway, you don't have to do it. Not everything is for everybody. I was just sharing my experience. It is a good tool for my needs and personality. Maybe it is not for yours."

We are in complete agreement.
Cheers!

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657819)

It is like the files of the KGB or the Stasi -- your "friends" write embarrassing things about yourself, and you don't know who's reading them -- except you do it willingly and co-operate, and the level of detail is greater.

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (1)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658577)

It's an urban legend that there's Facebook-CIA ties. You decide.

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (1)

rs79 (71822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658635)

No, of course not. The CIA doesn't do anything nasty online anywhere, ever. In
fact they don't do anything. And they're definitely not involved in icann.

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (1)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658755)

Nor in Icahn :-)

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658729)

It is really hard to tell if large US websites have ties with the government.

Especially after that case from a few weeks ago when a government official called to extend the power of the twitter for the benefit of ... errr ... the people of Iran.

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (2, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658077)

I've had an account for a long time. Two or three years, I guess. I was invited by a friend, so I registered. It's 99% waste of time, and 1% a convenient way to keep track of friends. Pretty much the same as Myspace, without the glaringly ugly personal pages.

As for your lawn, I'll get off it when I finish urinating on it, you crotchety old bastid. You should show a little more respect to a man who is half bald, half gray, and all gnarly!

Re:Call me a curmudgeon... (1)

Kleen13 (1006327) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658143)

I'll say this... when you deactivate your account and then sign back on months later, all your data is intact, as it was when you tried to quit...... I think this all comes down to the EULA at signup.... but I'm sure as hell not going to read it for this article...... Any takers?

Re:Technically true, but really ... (3, Insightful)

MadFarmAnimalz (460972) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658507)

Information such as links to your profile, your friends' profiles, pictures, groups, what-have-you. Such information is probably strictly Facebook's property

If you're my friend, that's a fact about me. Why should Facebook own that fact?

Re:Technically true, but really ... (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659475)

If you're my friend, that's a fact about me. Why should Facebook own that fact?

They don't. You're perfectly free to enter such information on any site you want, including power.com.

But who are you, and who am I? How does a site differentiate MadFarmAnimalz from whatever-the-hell-state-you're-in from MadFarmAnimalz from some-other-state, or from the same state but who isn't you? There's some degree of work that went on there, some sort of system set up that makes it easy for you to do so, some degree of infrastructure to support such activities. And of course, being a corporate interest, they want to pay their employees and make some money at the same time.

Why should Facebook have to make it easy for somebody to take all of the work they did, combine it with all of the work similar sites did, and drag your traffic to their own site? Why should Facebook permit other sites to use their work and their popularity to make some other group of people money, or otherwise erode their own interests? Why should they permit those activities in violation of their own Terms of Service (which I'm quite sure is where their original lawsuit came from)?

I don't know if they have a case, legally speaking, nor do I know whether or not I feel they should. From a business perspective it's a no-brainer. Your option as a user is to frequent a service that's more open with your sharing your information elsewhere, if one exists. If it doesn't, or it's inferior either in technical aspects or in terms of their network size, well, that's what defines the power of the Facebook brand. Of course they should defend that.

Re:Technically true, but really ... (1)

asdfndsagse (1528701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658601)

I dont think you understand TFA. Facebook _did_ share data with the company, but then Facebook sued them saying that they where not allowed to get that data. There was no practical barrier, and never was one, however Facebook wishes to impose a legal barrier onf entry, and propritary control over its users data (to which the user, and not Facebook, holds any available rights)

Re:Technically true, but really ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28665175)

Actually they keep your data safe from people who will take their ad revenue away from them. They are MORE than happy to share your data with whoever will give them money. Just not other sites that you consent to.

Re:Technically true, but really ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28670181)

But if you consider the vast majority of Facebook users, don't you think most of them need this kind of hand-holding?

Um, no. No, I don't. And you know why? Because I live or at least would like to ideally live in a free society where people can make their own decisions without anyone else telling them what they can and can't do and then claiming it's only "in their own best interest".

I know that this is really just about Facebook, but this sort of thinking must not be permitted to take hold anywhere or anytime. Down that road lies madness.

"Their" private data. (3, Interesting)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657225)

If it's "Their" private data then how hard will it be for "Them" to add it to Power.com? It looks like Power.com is trying to import and sync all the different social networks and facebook is saying No.

On one hand, if I hand all of my info to site X, why can't I give site X permission to give it to site Y.

On the other, If I give all my information to site X. Who am I to tell them what they can and can't do with it. It's like trusting the guy on the street corner and the cardboard box to be your banker. Sure if I ask for some of my money to do something with I'd like it back, but I don't expect him to give me any.

Re:"Their" private data. (2, Insightful)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657419)

You have to admit there is a need for this kind of product though.

If youre a person who networks through these sites, or say you have a band or whatever, it could be a full-time job to deal with keeping your various profiles current, etc.

There are some attempts to integrate parts of things, like ping.fm for example... but if you could have ONE online presence that you were able to take wherever you wanted to, be it facebook, myspace, twitter, or whatever next week's flavor is - it would be a huge service to people. It would also allow easier migration... if Facebook is starting to look old compared to ThisWeeksThing.com, then that new upstart would have an easier time getting going. Good for the evolution of the web, in a sense.

Which of course is why the established players will never allow it.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28657857)

oh, you must still be with AOL

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28658765)

Seriously, anyone who signs up to facebook should know the deal. You are putting your personal information or whatever level you are comfortable with on that site. If a third party site wants to try to deal with uniting the "walled garden" they should either make a deal with facebook or find another way. There is nothing that compels facebook to give out their stored information to third parties. That is up to the user, as it is their information and if they want to give it out to another area it is within their right. Whatever data you as a facebook user put up on facebook, they have have right as the site facilitator to restrict third party access.

Re:Well (1)

CommanderIsm (978259) | more than 5 years ago | (#28695553)

Facebook too stingy - you must be joking like the evil go-ogle it's all up for sale

Jeebus! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28657103)

Jeebus loves goats!!

Really? (3, Interesting)

Morlark (814687) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657121)

I sometimes wonder about the state of society that lawsuits like these should even come about in the first place. If people are dumb enough to give away their login credentials to some random website, what business is it of Facebook's? And if Facebook wants to shut the door on third parties, surely it's their service to do with as they wish?

Re:Really? (2, Interesting)

AlexBirch (1137019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657177)

Their service yes, but your data? What are my rights? If I sign to give away my first born, is that legally binding?

Re:Really? (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657219)

Just because you type some stuff into some website, doesn't mean the web site has to give you a nice easy automated way of getting all that data back out again. Take a look at slashdot Just from browsing my profile, I can only see my comments until some time back in November 2008. Yet I've been posting for years. If you want a copy of any information that you post on facebook, keep a copy on your own computer. Facebook provides a free service, and if they don't think there's any value in you being able to take that data out, then that's their perogative. All social networking sites thrive on the same concept. Create non-standard restrictive technologies for connection groups of people, so that the people can't just leave, lest they be disconnected from their social group. Personally, I liked it better when it was all just email and geocities pages. At least when you didn't like Geocities anymore, you could take your html and post it on tripod. Social networking was a page of links to all your friends sites. Sure we had to do a little more work ourselves, but we were a lot more in control of our own data.

Re:Really? (1)

AlexBirch (1137019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657243)

I think this is about the website from stopping me. Not about them making an easy to use API to extract that information.
Microsoft also thrives on not playing nicely with others, but I know how the /. crowd likes it.
~~~
Abraham Lincoln "Stand with anyone that is right; stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong."
--Abe Lincoln

Re:Really? (2, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657473)

They're well within their rights to stop automated attempts to scrape content and pursue actions against people who partake in tortious interference. Where a third-party site specifically encourages Facebook users to violate the ToS agreement by providing username and password credentials users are forbidden from disclosing.

Matters would be very different if it was just users scraping their own profile page for their persoanl use, in a non-disruptive and undetectable manner.

Or if the third party just developed a small tool you could download and use to scrape your profile info from FB (without violating the ToS and sending usernames+passwords to them).

However, a third party connecting directly to FB and performing mass scraping activities is eminently detectable, disruptive, a ToS violation, and basically steals services (users of the scraping service do not see FB advertising, for instance).

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28658675)

(users of the scraping service do not see FB advertising, for instance).

I don't see FB advertising anyway thanks to fun tools like Adblock Plus.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28657505)

Just because you type some stuff into some website, doesn't mean the web site has to give you a nice easy automated way of getting all that data back out again.

Who said anything about automating anything? Nobody, that's who. Your comment is out of touch with reality. RTFS FFS. A third party was happily chugging along without their help. They went out of their way to fuck the third party in the ass just because they could. This is why I despise humanity. You probably know the difference between reality and what you said somewhere deep down but it's blocked from reaching the surface.

Re:Really? (2, Informative)

Ansoni-San (955052) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657905)

If you want a copy of any information that you post on facebook, keep a copy on your own computer. Facebook provides a free service, and if they don't think there's any value in you being able to take that data out, then that's their perogative.

I don't know where you are but in the UK there's this thing called the Data Protection Act [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]
So at least here it's not their perogative as to if you get to take your data out. The most they can charge you for it is £10.

Re:Really? (2, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657435)

You have full rights to your data, of course they are under no obligation to provide you a copy of all your data. Unless you live in a jurisdiction that has privacy laws that require they provide all personally identifiable information for your inspection and correction.

You can login to facebook, using your username and password, and see all your data, however. I would say that they give you ample access to it.

What they don't let you do is utilize their service to export all your data directly to other services. You would have to copy and paste or type/write your data down by hand manually for import into other services.

Or you could just keep the authoritative copy of your data in notepad, periodically update, and paste your updated data into all the social networking websites you want to post it on.

Re:Really? (2, Insightful)

AlexBirch (1137019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657515)

I'm glad you weren't around when I wanted to take my phone number to a different service. There was a time when you couldn't do it.
Do I have the right to access the data of my friends? That is the heart of the matter. I don't care about my data, I already have it.

Re:Really? (2, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657667)

You have a right to access data of your friends that they allow you to access and that Facebook allows you to access, in the manner that they choose to permit that access.

Much like you have a right to see this comment response on slashdot in response to yours.

If slashdot so chose, they could decline to accept it, and decline to grant you the right to see it.

Just like FB could decline you the right to see a copy of a friend's profile page.

But FB doesn't, they give you the ability to view your friend's pages.

They just don't give you the right to make a web site that connects to the FB servers and spider's a user's friends pages.

FB has a right to dictate the manner in which you may access their servers. They can mandate that you use IE 6 if they so desire, it's their playground.

There are other ways you can get your friends' info that don't have the encumberance of any restrictions FB might impose, for example, you can ask your friends for the info.

Re:Really? (2, Insightful)

CapnStank (1283176) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657231)

Haven't we learned anything in life about the average-idiot though? Its not about whether or not we can protect ourselves we need to baby everyone around. That's why there's labels on electronics that tell you not to operate it near water. Warnings about why one shouldn't be using depressants around moving vehicles etc. Time and time again people have not proven to be responsible with their own decisions and need to be protected.

Re:Really? (3, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657421)

Because of the obvious abuses that can be committed with those credentials under your name. And you are responsible if you release those credentials.

It's not even allowed [facebook.com] to release, it's a specific violation of the contract that you have agreed to when you signup for an account on facebook.

  • 4. You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.
  • 5. You will keep your contact information accurate and up-to-date.
  • 6. You will not share your password, let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.
  • 7. You will not transfer your account to anyone without first getting our written permission.

Re:Really? (2, Interesting)

DaRanged (735002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657685)

<quote><p>... If people are dumb enough to give away their login credentials to some random website ... </p></quote>

People are more than just dumb when they sign up to things like Facebook, Skype, and nowadays just about any other social networking site / application. How many spam email / invites do you get from people you know who just signed up to Facebook and they (were stupid enough to) let Facebook into all their email accounts, IM contact lists by giving the website the user ID and password without thinking/knowing/realising the implications of what theyre doing? You can always tell these people coz you get spammed at every email address they had of yours!

Surely buried somewhere in the T&Cs of all these systems, there is a privacy clause which says you should never give your password out to anyone? And if not, they should flippin well put it in there to detect a dodgy system attempting to scalp email addresses, contact info and anything else that password affords access to.

What IS messed up is how Facebook gives applications access to data they do not need (e.g. why should Superpoke or any other non-photo based add-on be given access to my photos??) and therefore should be denied it. They still are not doing enough to fix this, and even changed the way they handle public votes/opinion not too long ago to get out of their responsibility to their users.

Re:Really? (1)

blippy (844130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28665817)

All these lawsuits. Aren't they just tales of sound and fury, signifying nothing? In 20 years, when Facebook and whoever else is involved have long passed, it wont even be in our collective memory to look back and realise just what a load of nonsense this all was.

Re:Really? (1)

moortak (1273582) | more than 5 years ago | (#28669887)

In 20 years we will likely have top live with the precedents set in cases like this. Our legal system is shaped and refined by loads of petty cases.

Limerick! (0)

nubsac (1329063) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657283)

There Once was a site named Facebook

Policy so Queer, takes a Second Look

Spammers Invade

Makes the site Second Grade

Your Data they done took

social network of social networks (5, Funny)

e**(i pi)-1 (462311) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657353)

Maybe social networks need to become "friends" first to allow mutual aggregation of customers ...

This is handwaving (5, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657399)

"Facebook improperly restricts its users' access to their private information,"

Huh, what? You entered the data in your profile. Naturally, you have the data, at least, if you chose to keep a copy of it.

Facebook.com's terms of service don't contain any clause or term of use where they guarantee they will provide you any data you have entered for free access by any third party application or service.

This is as if you published a book on an online website, and a third-party decides to sue the website, because you signed up with a third-party, giving the third-party permission to reprint, but your book-publishing website chooses not to cooperate.

Just because the information is yours, doesn't mean you have a right to authorize someone to scrape it from an online service you have posted it to. That online service has an interest and a right to control the terms and conditions under which their servers may be accessed.

Re:This is handwaving (1)

Rick Bentley (988595) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657683)

Wait, really? Let's say my HD crashes and I want to download all the pictures I ever uploaded to FB. This could take a long time if I do it one right-mouse-click at a time.

I'm not allowed to write a script that logs into my FB account and gets all my pictures for me? I can't give someone else my FB log/pass and let them do it for me (automated or not)? FB agrees it's my data, and I have access to it through their provided web interface. I'm not asking for a special XML pipe or anything. I'd be kinda cranky if FB wouldn't let me farm that task out to a trusted 3rd party.

Re:This is handwaving (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28657729)

Ignoring the fact that all the pictures are downsized and not the original pictures you would want.
who honestly uploads files to facebook as a means of storage? It's not the purpose of the site.

Re:This is handwaving (4, Insightful)

unity (1740) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658041)

That's exactly what it means. The servers/site/HDspace/bandwidth is THEIR property they can decide whatever limitation they want. If you don't like it, don't rely on them to bail you out if your HD crashes.

Re:This is handwaving (3, Insightful)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658117)

So long as your action does not violate any term of service, and if those terms of service mean you end up having to right click on every single image, so be it - but your stinky 3rd party friend over there, he ain't welcome. Facebook TOS. Understand? It don't matter a damn how much you trust this other entity, facebook do not want their site scraped - and frankly, they have a right to be pissed, it is, after all, their website, and you accepted the rules when you signed on. End of story.

Re:This is handwaving (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658501)

No, their rules can't be above the law. In my country at least, any rule saying they'll keep the data even if you're against it (when you try to leave them, for example) is illegal, as you have the legal right to force them to delete your data.
That's what this suits are trying to prove: if Facebook can legally prevent this kind of access.

Re:This is handwaving (1)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 5 years ago | (#28658871)

But FB is not in your country, so you can't force them to give you your data.

Re:This is handwaving (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659387)

That might be true, that you can demand they remove information, and force them to, but only if FB operates a site in your country. Otherwise, FB only really has to follow the laws of the countries they operate in.

Your legal rights are specific to your jurisdiction -- if FB doesn't exist in your country, your rights may be different.

e.g. Special and unusual privacy rights may not exist with regards to your dealings with FB, sorry, but those only apply to domestic corporations.

Just like slashdot can post articles whose content might be illegal under chinese law, for example, criticising the chinese government, or criticising a chinese gov't initiative such as the Green Dam Youth Escort.

And even if you do visit the site from china, it does not mean that slashdot has broken the law.

Re:This is handwaving (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659427)

Wait, really? Let's say my HD crashes and I want to download all the pictures I ever uploaded to FB.

Having failed to backup your data, you are in a very unfortunate situation.

However, that does not change your rights or facebook's rights, with regards to their site or those pictures.

You're still not entitled to scrape their site or release your credentials to a third party in violation of your agreement.

But they may allow you to perform a one-time scrape of only your pictures, should you do it in a non-disruptive manner that doesn't violate the ToS, and/or should you write to FB and obtain permission first.

Re:This is handwaving (1)

Kazoo the Clown (644526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28664459)

If I understand this correctly, what you're saying is email sites like Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, etc., would, if they so choose, have the right to prohibit Facebook from scraping your contact list even if you give them the login information. Interesting...

Re:This is handwaving (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28664805)

Yes. Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail, could include a clause in their ToS that you assent to when you sign up, that prohibits you from sharing your username and password.

If a third party service specifically solicits you for your credentials to those sites, then their request is an example of tortious interference [wikipedia.org] , because they are convincing you to breach your contract (the one that states you agree not to share your password).

And yes, they have a right to prohibit third party sites from logging in (impersonating you) in order to obtain the contents of private contact lists, even if you have authorized it.

They can also condition access to their site, and prohibit robots from automatically pulling pages, and document those restrictions in the Terms of Service, and using the industry standard method of declaring robots exclusion (known as /robots.txt).

Re:This is handwaving (1)

Kazoo the Clown (644526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28665889)

Ok, so, granted it may be legal for such sites to do this, doesn't it just seem a little bit two faced for Facebook to depend on the ability to scrape other sites in order to provide their services, yet prohibit other sites from similarly scraping them? One measure of ethical behavior is what would happen if everyone behaved like that. Facebook's utility would be somewhat impaired if everyone behaved like they do.

Re:This is handwaving (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28668663)

Do you have an example of what Facebook supposedly scrapes?

Even if they do scrape something from a site that allows scraping, that doesn't necessarily mean they have to allow it themselves, or that they should allow massive spidering of pages on their server.

Re:This is handwaving (1)

Kazoo the Clown (644526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28669231)

Seeing as how their "friend finder" asks you for your email login info, it apparently scrapes the names and addresses from your contact list looking for additional friends that you haven't yet entered manually. I haven't used it myself because I don't like the idea, and if yahoo mail or gmail or hotmail decides they don't like it, it will completely nix the automated riend finder at least for people with those email accounts. And in fact, it wouldn't surprise me if it turns out it already violates the TOS of some of those sites.

Re:This is handwaving (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28669317)

Google and Hotmail at least, have APIs that allow third-party websites to get your contact lists.

You provide UN and Password, Gmail will prompt you to grant the third party site 'permission' to access your contact list, you accept, they get the list.

Is Facebook not using the APIs provided by the webmail providers for this purpose?

Re:This is handwaving (1)

Kazoo the Clown (644526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28670111)

Is Facebook not using the APIs provided by the webmail providers for this purpose?

I don't know, but it's irrelevant to my point. My point is that Facebook provides this feature through the goodwill of other sites in providing user granted acccess to them via third parties. At the same time, Facebook refuses the same sort of goodwill towards other sites. It seems hypocritical to me.

Re:This is handwaving (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28672245)

Facebook containing integrations that allow users to conveniently use their contacts like that is actually beneficial to Gmail, etc.

They're delivering a convenience to Gmail/Hotmail/etc users that the users get just because they use that webmail service. And Facebook is definitely not a service built around that scraping -- the scraping is minor, only done specially at user request, and most people probably don't even use it. As a result, it's not really disruptive and probably not an issue, due to the minor nature of it.

If Google were to decide to ban Facebook scraping/getting contact info from them using their partner APIs, gmail users would be inconvenienced and possibly encouraged to switch to a provider that didn't do that, because the utility of their gmail account has been reduced.

I think Google, Yahoo, etc, might have some choice words for FB, if they expanded their integrations to include saving credentials and/or integrating a Webmail service into FB that showed an aggregated view of your e-mail and contacts from all your webmail providers, allowing Gmail users to see all their e-mail, and never actually go to gmail.com, or see the gmail.com advertising.

Power.com is not a site that has a primary other purpose and only does some minor scraping. The entire service is built around scraping other sites, and they would probably generate a much heavier load footprint on FB than FB does on Google, et al.

Moreover, their scraping is not complimentary to FB, it's not merely a convenience for FB users, they want you to switch from using FB to using Power.com, if I understand correctly.

They eliminate the distinctiveness and advertising of all the services you use, and aggregate it into one.

This is not symbiotic, this does not merely provide a small convenience for FB users, this is nearly a form of competition, where users are encouraged to go to Power.com, and never need visit FB again.

Missing the "Who Gives a Shit" Tag (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28660465)

Seriously. Facebook, Myspace, WAYN, Twitter, all of that garbage.

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