What he says

Mike Arrington gets it right in the kerfuffle over Robert Scoble using a Plaxo scraper to take email addresses of his friends — mine included, I might add — and put them into their damned spam machine. Scoble’s doing to loud public crying act over this but I agree with Mike that Plaxo is wrong and Facebook is right. I want Facebook to protect my email address. I don’t want Scoble downloading it and giving it over to Plaxo, a brand and company I will never, never trust and would never choose to do business with or hand data to on my own. So much of the reaction to this little incident gets it backwards; there has been much talk about how we should be able to get our data out of Facebook and that’s fine but we also need to protect our data from others making use of it without our permission and that’s what this is about in the end.

: And what she says: Dawn, comment on Arrington’s post:

Facebook has created an environment where we only allow access to certain items that we want people to see. If I have let Scoble see my entire profile, meaning my education, my employment, my DOB, etc., and he takes any of that with him, to where ever he is taking it (and he could take it elsewhere), he is violating my right to privacy.

Not only does this affect the careful identity construction that I’ve done, but it also undermines my ability to only be a part of communities that I wish to take part in. He is porting my identity to sites unknown and using it in a way that I haven’t consented to.

If today it is Robert Scoble, who is to say that tomorrow it’s not someone stealing my identity and using it on sites that are unsavory?

Instead of jumping on a revolution bandwagon, we should be thinking about the overwhelming social issues here. I believe in portability for MY OWN identity. I don’t think that you should be allowed to take my information anywhere you want to go with it.

Right. Especially Plaxo.

: LATER: Good gawd, Nick Carr and I agree. Jack Schofield of the Guardian agrees, too.

: Scoble is back up on Facebook. But he now has fewer than 5,000 friends. Did some leave him?

  • Pierre Carion

    So I guess you also *condemn* Facebook “Friend Finder” application which allows facebook to collect your contacts from Hotmail/gmail/… right ? Following your logic, Facebook shouldn’t be allowed to retrieve my email just because I sent a mail to someone who now wants to open a Facebook account.

    By the way, by submitting this comment, my email is now stored on your server … isn’t that violating also my ‘right to privacy’ ? I don’t see any TOS here which clearly states that you “wouldn’t use it without my permission”.

  • Hi Jeff,

    Unless you have a contract with Robert that prohibits him from sharing your email address (which you gave him) with other people I’m pretty sure this doesn’t violate any rights. What you are really angry at is that Robert took liberties with the personal information you gave him.

    He could easily have just had an intern type them into his Plaxo account and avoided using a bot all together. The result would be the same as would the fault.


  • Pierre,
    Fair point. But at the end of that, *I* decide whether to bother *my* friend who is *already* in Facebook and understands that people will ask to be friends. Plaxo, which I hate for its spam, would use my address in ways I do not approve. So the analogy doesn’t waash.
    My deal is with Facebook and its TOS and its assurance to protect me, which it did and well.

  • I have to piggy back on Piere’s comments here Jeff.

    Facebook is a company too. They might have better PR and feel more useful than Plaxo — but they are a company nonetheless and they do data mining all the time – the “friend finder” application.

    To me it sounds like their TOS are: We can collect all the data we want from outside sources, but once we have that data – we won’t share it.

    I understand the fear here — that Plaxo will spam you. But guess what, one man’s spam is another mans treasure. Some might consider a request to Join Facebook, a spam message.

    • Frankie

      Facebook spammed everybody on my outlook email list, asking them to join up as my friend. I did not intentionally allow that to happen but none the less it did. There were people on that email list that I do not wish to join me on Facebook and I would have never asked them. But Facebook did it without warning me first. I’m not happy with that subtle feature when finding friend on Facebook. They should make it clear to you they are going to send a request to everybody on your entire email list before they disguise the function. I don’t know a lot about Facebook but I do know it looks like it could compromise your personal data stored on your machine. If it can spam my entire address book without me knowing it is doing it what else is going on that I don’t know about? Just a word to the wise, be cautious when playing around on that platform.

  • Dave,
    But again, the gating factor here is me. I decide whether to bother my friends and result of that is clear.

  • I’m with Sean on this one. Facebook’s TOS may have protected you from Scoble *easily* transferring your contact info into Plaxo, but it does not protect you from that happening at all. You protect you from that happening.

    You write you don’t want Scoble putting your contact info into Plaxo, but he can do that without the bot. Anybody with your contact info can put it into whatever service they want. If they use Plaxo to manage their 50,000 2.0 identities, that sucks for you. If they use another service, and are indeed your friend who you want to give your contact info to, well your support of the Facebook TOS here makes it a pain in the ass for me to gather/keep up-to-date with all my friends’ contact info, which I may want to put into a harmless address book app, but am not going to spend 5 hours cutting and pasting to get it done.

    A pox on Scoble for using Plaxo, perhaps, but a pox on Facebook too for preventing easy info gathering, which is what these 2.0 services are all about. Staying networked.

  • Gordon,
    But see others’ posts linked above (who know more than I do): You can get that information. It’s in the API. You just can’t get the email. And I’m for that.
    And, yes, anyone can feed my name to a spammer. But I wouldn’t expect a *friend* to do that. ;-)

  • I’m not particularly fussed about Scoble having my contact number.

    However, I am very glad that Facebook has stepped in to ensure that MY data is kept secure. I gave Robert permission to see my data within the Facebook interface, not to extract it and give it over to a third party.


    It may be that you don’t LIKE Facebook’s Terms and Conditions.

    You have a right to dislike them.

    You have a right to choose whether to use the service or not.

    Want you don’t have a right to do is blithely break them when it doesn’t suit.

    And for what it’s worth, here in the UK, extracting data from a web service in a way that breaks the site’s T&Cs is a CRIMINAL offence carrying up to 2 years in prison. I think that Scoble ought to be glad he’s American this afternoon :-)

  • Pierre Carion

    Criminal ? waow ?

    IANAL, but in Google gmail program polcies (http://mail.google.com/mail/help/program_policies.html) , it is said that:

    Prohibited Actions

    In addition to (and/or as some examples of) the violations described in Section 3 of the Terms of Use, users may not:
    – selling, exchanging or distributing to a third party the email addresses of any person without such person’s knowing and continued consent to such disclosure

    Is it not what FriendFinder is doing ?

    It’s ok to say that we don’t like Plaxo and/or Scoble – but that ‘kerfuffle’ is not the good reason.

  • I don’t really see that the issue is either Facebook or Plaxo, it is whether you trust Robert Scoble as a friend not to screw around with your personal information. Surely that is an issue between you and Robert?

  • Plaxo also gives me the heebie-jeebies. I’ve used it twice — once a long time ago, and once very recently — and both times I just couldn’t wait to get rid of it. I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, but I’m glad I’m not the only one with trust issues in regards to Plaxo.

    That said, Plaxo scares me because I don’t trust it not to message my entire contact list without my permission. I don’t care what Plaxo does with *my* email address, however. I can always setup a rule to filter evil Plaxo messages out. (That’s why whenever I signup at a site, I use [theirdomainname]@[mydomain].com — makes it real easy to tell who is selling my email address!)

    I support Facebook’s position because it’s their company/website and they were clear in their terms of service what you can and cannot do. They also re-enabled Scoble’s account, so no one is out anything.

    Back in the beginning, Facebook allowed you to export your contacts’ information as a CSV. I thought that was handy. I still think it would be handy. If you don’t want your information out there, don’t put it on your profile, or only friend people you REALLY trust.

    Your email address is not your DNA, folks!

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  • good post Jeff

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  • I’m with Jeff on this one. I have no trouble with Facebook trying hard to keep the details I give to Facebook private (or at least as private as only the people who I choose to be friends with have them). I too have had a couple of run ins with Plaxo. I don’t rate it and don’t want anything to do with it now. Maybe it will come good in the longer term, but at the moment it’s a long way off.

  • I think Nigel Eccles sums it up pretty well in the comment above.

    If you have data available on your profile, and you then add someone as a friend, you give them permission to view that data.

    Does that mean you then need to give them separate permission to use that data to email you? Or to phone you?

    Personally I’ve always avoided Plaxo due to the mail I’ve had from contacts using it. But a friend of mine is using it for their contacts, and they put my publicly available details in there, the issue is between me and them, and not with Facebook or Plaxo. And the issue is probably limited to:

    1. Deciding who I want to see the information in the first place, and whether I think they’ll misuse it.

    2. Deciding whether to contact that person privately, and ask them to remove my contact details from a service that annoys me.

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  • Scott Cropper

    Try this, go to Facebook and click on a friend. Scroll down to the Information block and if you are in the group that your friend has given permission to view his/her email address you will see a graphic of that address. Now what? Click on it, look at it, you gotta re-type it into your address book so that you can actually use it. You don’t email friends on Facebook, you poke/message/post/throw a sheep at them but you can’t email them. So whats the point in it being shared with you if you can’t use it?

    Plaxo isn’t the issue here. The issue is whether or not a user should be able to easily retrieve data they have been given access to by another user on Facebook. Data that you can’t use in Facebook unless you can get it out and put it into your address book.

    When you share your email address with others then you are giving them the option of using it. If they use it in a fashion you don’t agree with then you should do a better job of picking your friends.

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