Here's what Robert was trying to do:
I was alpha testing an upcoming feature of Plaxo Pulse .... It is a Facebook importer that works just like any other address book importer.
What does it collect?
Names and email address and birthday.
It did NOT look at anything else. Just this stuff, no social graph data. No personal information.
I wanted to get all my contacts into my Microsoft Outlook address book and hook them up with the Plaxo system, which 1,800 of my friends are already on.
It’s ironic that you can import your Gmail address book into Facebook but you can’t export back out.
I sympathize with Robert's plight; I recently triggered a "bot sensor" myself on a site. (I wasn't even using a program, just looking at a lot of pages in sequence!.)
But what's interesting to me is that most of the discussion doesn't surround Facebook's policy or whether they were within their rights to turn off Robert's account, even temporarily. Much of the discussion concerns whether Robert Scoble had any right to the data he was "collecting".
I say he does. He was collecting names and email address and birthday from his contacts on Facebook. In the same way that he might have imported this information originally from applications such as Gmail or Outlook, he was now exporting it back out.
Some of the comments on the discussion:
- Robert nor Plaxo don’t have the right to scrape these addresses without the explicit consent of the friends of Robert.
- My data has been stolen by Robert Scoble at the behest of Plaxo.
- Anyone who publishes an email address in Facebook should assume it will get grabbed.
- How is this a “data breach” - you & Robert connected on Facebook and via Facebook you shared your email address with Robert?...I share my data with people via tools like Facebook in the hope that THEY WILL USE THAT INFORMATION.
- I also am a “facebook friend” of Scoble. ... I didn’t believe that I’d given him permission to scrape my personal data and upload it to a company I’ve not chosen to do business with.
- There’s explicity permission between members (as they are friends) so why prevent email addresses to be shared.
I don’t understand why anyone would say Robert doesn’t have the right to export these addresses. These are the addresses of people Robert added as friends. Doesn’t that make this Robert's address book?
I should be allowed to export my contacts list from whatever application (Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo! mail, Thunderbird...) and import that into any other application (Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo! mail, Thunderbird...).
As I understand the situation, Robert wasn’t scraping Facebook. Plaxo wasn't scraping Facebook (or anything else). Robert was scraping his own account on Facebook. There’s a difference.
If I “friend” someone and give them my email address to contact me, that person should be allowed to take that address and put it into any contact list s/he maintains, anywhere. No one else has that right. But the person I give my address to now “owns” my address w.r.t. his personal contact list sand his personal use.
Once I give you my contact info, it’s not “mine” any more. If I feel the need to control that data, I don’t give it to nyone else. I can make up a zillion hotmail addresses, one per contact. I can lie about my info. I can stay off the net. But, if I choose to play, the way I interpret the rules, anything I let loose is out of my control.
At least, that’s the way I see it.