As everyone in the solar system must know by now, Facebook disabled the account of Ã…Â±ber-blogger Robert Scoble who promptly complained.
And then bragged about how many people were contacting him to get a copy of the screen scaping script that caused his suspention — so they could get removed from Facebook also.
Why? Because, he says, the script is “trying to connect Facebook names with names in its database.”
What database is that, Robert? Are you building a spam list to promote your new, post-PodTech venture?
I am one of Scoble’s Facebook “friends” (we are now known as the “Scoble 5000″). And because I use Plaxo to synchronize my contacts, Robert unintentionally was added to my Plaxo address book when I made him a gTalk contact in order to share Goorgle Reader feeds with him. (Robert’s “life stream” now dominates my own Plaxo Pulse — yesterday I had to go back eight pages to find the first non-Scoble contribution!)
Really, Robert. Just chill out.
My name, my email address, and my age belong to me. Not to you.
Facebook was doing its job, protecting my data from your attempt to take it.
Robert Scoble and I are not friends in any sense of the word. We have never met, never IM’ed, never emailed nor phoned one another. Our relationship is strictly one way: I read what Robert writes. Most of the time I enjoy it. And I think I would like Robert, if I ever met him.
If Robert had asked me directly for my personal information, I would have given it to him. In fact, by adding him to my Plaxo address book, I had already given him access to more than my email address! (I guess I was one of the 1,800 Plaxo matches his database building script found.)
But Robert, having an “open” social network doesn’t mean that personal information is available for spam mining. It means that Facebook should be an intermediary so you can me an email from your regular email client, without Facebook revealing my email address. Like “in care of” snail mail.
And yes, “open” means that Plaxo should be able to figure out the Facebook profile page of any of my Plaxo address book contacts and do it through a published API that protects the privacy of Facebook users. A Facebook profile page is yet another point of contact, just as a phone number or an IM username.
But “open” does not mean screen scraping and decoding image files to obtain personal information.
I’m not too upset with Robert’s somewhat clumsy attempt to get my personal data (although I don’t think getting slapped down by Facebook makes Robert a martyr nor a revolutionary).
In fact, I think intentionally or otherwise, Robert has used his high visibility to draw attention to the core questions that must answered before social networks can advance to their next natural level:
Who owns the data, and Who may access it.