Facebook and Plaxo and Scoble=Controversey

by francine Hardaway on January 3, 2008

I awoke this morning to find out that my friend Robert Scoble had been banned from Facebook for alpha testing a Plaxo feature that allows you to take your contact list from Facebook and import it to Plaxo Pulse.

All day long I have been arguing on his behalf for data portability. I don’t like it that I can’t move my contacts or have my data from Facebook.  But when he disclosed it was a feature from Plaxo, I freaked out.

Plaxo spams me constantly. I use it for my address book, and it functions very well for that.  However, I volunteered to test Pulse early on, because I was in Silicon Valley for the summer, and that has produced an incredible amount of both spam and bacn.

For every person who tries to connect to me on Pulse that I know, there are twelve I’ve never met, who represent companies like "Integrity Income" and "Wealth Connections." These mega-networkers have no idea who I am, but they want to add my connections to theirs, producing an even larger network of spammers.

This summer I asked Plaxo if they would be introducing a feature that would allow a "group ignore" of all the people you didn’t want to connect to, and a group "connect" for all the ones you do, and Joseph Smarr said yes.  But it isn’t there yet.  So I have to spend a fair amount of time culling from the fifteen connection requests the two I actually know. It’s a time suck.

Nevertheless, I want data portability, and I admire Scoble for taking the heat.  I will now stop writing and watch he video he’s going to make answering questions.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Merlin Ward January 4, 2008 at 2:43 pm

With a track record like Plaxo’s you can’t blame Facebook for not wanting you to import their contacts there.

Facebook definitely has their ego about themselves. There is a lot of hype about them being the best and they know it.

On the other end, Facebook has been nailed for privacy issues a number of times. First the change to the image email and IM SN on profile, then the feed, and recently the beacon. Allowing people to export their contacts to other networks with the possibility of spam is something they want to shelter themselves from.

dawn January 4, 2008 at 10:07 pm

I don’t have a problem with portability. In fact, I endorse it — if the information that I take has been shared with the understanding that it may be ported. Facebook’s TOS ensured that wouldn’t happen anytime soon.

The main controversy is that Robert violated Facebook’s TOS, willingly, and then flaunted it. He should be dropped by Facebook if he is doing that. He understands corporate license well enough and to go against it intentionally was wrong on his part — whether it was for Plaxo, his own needs, or anything else. He should have said no.

francine hardaway January 4, 2008 at 10:21 pm

I think I am coming to believe the fault lies in all directions: Facebook’s TOS, Plaxo’s wish to suck in all data, and Robert’s cheerful cooperation. It deserves a good discussion with all parties at the table.

dawn January 4, 2008 at 10:39 pm

I’ll concede to that. I think this is a discussion we should all be having. This deals with portability, identity management, privacy, ownership, and many other issues. We rush in, excited to try the newest things, but we really need to start thinking about the ramifications of these new utilities that we’re all using.

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