Although the recently announced Google+ social platform is still in private beta, it has generated enough excitement to have Facebook making some preemptive measures. Shortly after the announcement, Facebook made a peculiar change to their TOS that resulted in the ban of popular Chrome extension Facebook Friend Exporter. Over the weekend, another personal data migration tool, Open-Xchange, has also been deactivated.
Open-Xchange is a free open-source tool (http://ox.io) created for users so that they can store their personal contacts in a central location and sync them across various social platforms. Via the official Facebook API, Open-Xchange allows users to export their Facebook friends lists, but doesn't harvest email data. Instead, it only exports first and last names so that they can be matched to the emails in the accounts that the user has given Open-Xchange the permission to access.
On Sunday, Facebook disabled the app Connector for ox.io for breach of TOS. The Open-Xchange guys and many others who have come to rely on the tool are obviously peeved by the revelation.
"If you want to see what a future looks like where a single company controls YOUR personal data for its own profit, this is a glimpse," said Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange. "Clearly, Facebook management does not want you to have the ability to take your personal information outside their walls to, say, Google+ and will do everything in their power to stop you, including violating their own terms and conditions."
Below is the email that the Open-Xchange team received from Facebook:
We're writing to inform you that your app Connector for ox.io has been disabled for the following violations:
You cannot use a user's friend list outside of your application, even if a user consents to such use, but you can use connections between users who have both connected to your application. (FPP II.11)
Our expectation is that developers do not provide users with poor experiences, such as those resulting from inappropriate or misleading content, privacy and security vulnerabilities, and general spam in the Stream, Requests, and elsewhere. We appreciate your commitment to improving the application ecosystem on Platform.
Laguna points out that Facebook's claims are preposterous as the Open-Xchange tool uses the Facebook API only to extract first and last name fields. He emphasizes that there is no parsing or scraping for email addresses. And this same feature is available under Facebook's account settings that provides a friends.html file.
"This is not about user experience. It is about Facebook NOT wanting anyone to control their personal information - except Facebook."
How do you all feel about what Facebook is doing? Is this all just coincidental timing, or is Facebook on the offensive trying best they can to prevent a potential bleed out to Google+?