The big facebook story this week has been the decision to boot Robert Scoble for running a scraper over his account so that he can move his 'social graph', more commonly know as his friends list, to other services. This was against their terms of service - naughty Scoble!
I'm not going to get into the moral issues about whether he breached the privacy of his friends by attempting to view their email addresses which they had granted him permission to view. My work on a MSN messenger contact grabber and highlighting gmail contact and yahoo contact grabbers probably speaks for itself.
Instead let's see if we can make sense of the terms of service Robert Scoble decided didn't apply to him.
I've taken relevant extracts from the terms of service at 3 websites. Try and guess which belongs to facebook.
In addition, you agree not to use the Service or the Site to:
- harvest or collect email addresses or other contact information of other users from the Service or the Site by electronic or other means for the purposes of sending unsolicited emails or other unsolicited communications;
In using the service, you may not:
* use any automated process or service to access and/or use the service (such as a BOT, a spider, periodic caching of information stored by Microsoft, or "meta-searching");
You agree not to access the Service by any means other than through the interface that is provided by Yahoo! for use in accessing the Service.
Social networks are built on scraping content
The first site is facebook. Robert Scoble clearly breached the terms of service. But here is where it gets interesting.
Site 2 is hotmail for which facebook provides a automated service, which could also be called a BOT, to grab contacts.
Site 3 is yahoo for which facebook provides a automated service to grab contacts.
Terms of service be damned! Mark Zuckerberg has a fortune to make and if that means being an accessory to millions of users breaching their contracts with other companies then so be it.