Google CEO: Facebook is “holding users hostage”

May 22, 2012
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Google CEO Larry Page has called out Facebook for its overly-possessive attitude toward user data, arguing that the social network is "holding users hostage" with its shortage of export options. Page criticized the site while appearing on the Charlie Rose show, telling the host that "I think it’s been unfortunate that Facebook has been pretty closed with their data," VentureBeat reports. While Google is willing to open up, Page insists, there's still no sign that Facebook will ever do the same.

"From a user’s perspective, you say … I’m joining Facebook. I want my contacts. In Google, we said, fine. You can get them from Google. And the issue we had is that then Facebook said, no, Google, you can’t do the reverse. And so we just said, well, users don’t understand what they’re doing. They’re putting data in, and they don’t understand they can’t take it out. So we said, well, we’ll only participate with people who have reciprocity. And we’re still waiting" Larry Page, CEO, Google

It's not the first time Google and Facebook have sparred over data sharing. Android was stripped of native Facebook contacts sync back in early 2011, when Google tightened its data policy over concerns that users might not realize their combined contact details would not be exported because of the social site's limitations. Leaving sync in place "created a false sense of data portability" Google said at the time.

"We are removing the special-case handling of Facebook contacts on Nexus S and future lead devices. We continue to believe that reciprocity (the expectation that if information can be imported into a service it should be able to be exported) is an important step toward creating a world of true data liberation — and encourage other websites and app developers to allow users to export their contacts as well" Google, February 2011

Asked by Rose what justification Facebook gave for the data decision, Page said that the public excuse was one of privacy, but argued that in fact that was not the case as Facebook works with Yahoo! on data exports. Nonetheless, Page wished Mark Zuckerberg & Co. well with the Facebook IPO, though declined to comment on any comparisons between it and the Google IPO back in 2004.

Page also commented briefly on the recent antitrust questions around the site, including the deadline of a "matter of weeks" to address regulator concerns. The CEO described Google as willing to work on "reasonable scrutiny" to ensure anti-competitive behaviors weren't taking place.


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