By now you are sick of reading about Robert Scoble's banning from Facebook. But this is a really interesting conundrum.
Here is what Scoble was doing.
OK, so I’ve been released from my NDA. I was alpha testing an upcoming feature of Plaxo Pulse — this feature has not yet been released and now that my account has gotten shut down it’s not clear whether it will be released. It is a Facebook importer that works just like any other address book importer.
What does it collect?
Names and email address and birthday.
Why those? Because it’s trying to connect Facebook names with names in its database.
For instance, it learned that of the 5,000 people in my Facebook account about 1,800 were already on Plaxo.
It did NOT look at anything else. Just this stuff, no social graph data. No personal information.
Why do this?
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.
We really can't be too upset about Facebook protecting our privacy. In the end, their bot was designed to make sure that people wouldn't get in an harvest personal information from Facebook. That is cool, it is laudable, and we should encourage it.
I do not have my birthday on my Facebook page because we all should know that our birth date is an excellent proxy data point for identity theft. Your name and your birthdate quickly get people to your social security number.
So, yay! To Facebook for protecting us.
Facebook is a data sink. It is a drain into which our energies and attention pour. In Facebook we have built very little of value. However, items of value in Facebook we have built are our contact lists and any organization of them we have done. Those are our lists. If Facebook doesn't wise up and see that the only thing of value they have, they hoard. They will find a lot of people looking for the next pretty social networking platform.
Scoble is right, if I can get my data out of gmail, I should be able to get it out of Facebook. Or LinkedIn for that matter.
So Thank You and Shame On You
Thank you Facebook for setting up bots to detect invasions of my privacy. That's excellent. Shame on you for not building into your API something that allows for smoother transition of my social information. And Shame on you for hurting poor, defenseless Robert Scoble! :-)