Facebook is seeking to block Facebook Friend Exporter, a Google Chrome extension that does exactly what its name implies. The Facebook Friend Exporter allows users to easily extract their friends list along with emails, phone numbers, and other friend data. The tool allows the data to be saved into a text file or imported easily to Gmail.
While the extension is currently out of commission, creator Mohamed Mansour hopes to build a new version that uses an alternative design to combat the Facebook restrictions.
The Cat-And-Mouse Game
Road blocks were first implemented when Facebook began showing email addresses as graphics rather than normal text that can easily be found and processed by data scraping tools. Mansour bypassed this by obtaining the email addresses through Facebook’s mobile site, only to have Facebook remove the addresses completely.
As Mansour noted on his Google + page:
This is what happens when your extension becomes famous :sigh: Facebook just removed the emails from their mobile site. They implemented a throttling mechanism that if you visit your ~5 friends in a short period of time, it will remove the email field.
No worries, a new version is on the making ... I am bloody annoyed now, because this proves Facebook owns every users data on Facebook. You don't own anything! If I were you, I would riot this to the media outlets again.
Seriously ... more motivation to figure out a different approach.
Facebook Has Data, and it’s Not Sharing
Facebook’s hold on user data is especially crucial now, as Google begins the launching of their own social network, Google+. It’s no surprise Facebook wants to keep friend data under lockdown—if users can extract their Facebook friend data, it will make for a smooth, hassle-free transition over to Google+.
Facebook’s data hoarding stands in sharp contrast to Google’s latest Google Takeout feature, which enables users to easily remove or copy personal data from any and all Google products and services.
Facebook’s terms of service in Section 3.2 notes that “You will not collect users content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our permission," but Mansour and others are set on having access to their data, even if it means bending some rules.
With Google+’s induction into the social media club, the stakes are high for Facebook, but is it really possible for them to continue preventing developers from creating data gathering tools?