Unintended advantages

I’m getting dozens of emails asking for my script. See, there’s a ton of people who WANT to be deleted from Facebook. So far Facebook has been denying them, saying it’s impossible to delete everything you’ve ever done from Facebook. Well, if you go over to Rodney Rumford’s blog you can see that’s totally hogwash. Facebook CAN totally delete you from Facebook IF IT WANTS!

Well, I will talk to the developers about that later today. Suw makes the same point in a Seesmic video, by the way.

Me? My account is still down and haven’t heard back from Facebook yet. Since it’s just about 7 a.m. here in California, I expect it’ll be a few more hours before I hear back.

Facebook claims it is a “utility.” Well, I like how Kara Swisher put it. Hint: “utilities” have due process and don’t just shut down someone’s account without a warning. You should see the comments on my last post. Some people didn’t even knowingly break the rules and never got a good answer for why their accounts were shut down.

Oh, and Jimmy Wales (the guy who founded Wikipedia) wrote me and said, about my attempts to get my own social data back: “This is the kind of thing that I would consider to be a *benefit to our customers* rather than a *threat to our business*.”

Anyway, it’s interesting being in the middle of a Twitter storm. Hundreds of messages about this issue have been written since I first posted last night.

Comments

  1. But Robert, isn’t the point that you weren’t scraping data that was *yours*. You were scraping data which *belongs to others*. Yes, they’d agreed to give you access to it – but only in the context of Facebook. Facebook doesn’t have any explicit permission from them to let you take that data and use it elsewhere.

    Of course, 99.99% of people that have friended you wouldn’t care if you scraped their email address and phone number (I certainly don’t) and used it in your personal address book. But they might be more cautious if, say, you wanted to put it into another social networking service.

    Think of it this way: putting your phone number on your blog doesn’t give people the right to take that number and use it in any way they wish, does it? Similarly, giving you access to my information on Facebook may not mean that I give you carte blanche to take it elsewhere.

  2. But Robert, isn’t the point that you weren’t scraping data that was *yours*. You were scraping data which *belongs to others*. Yes, they’d agreed to give you access to it – but only in the context of Facebook. Facebook doesn’t have any explicit permission from them to let you take that data and use it elsewhere.

    Of course, 99.99% of people that have friended you wouldn’t care if you scraped their email address and phone number (I certainly don’t) and used it in your personal address book. But they might be more cautious if, say, you wanted to put it into another social networking service.

    Think of it this way: putting your phone number on your blog doesn’t give people the right to take that number and use it in any way they wish, does it? Similarly, giving you access to my information on Facebook may not mean that I give you carte blanche to take it elsewhere.

  3. Doesn’t Facebook’s actions sound a lot like the early email marketers. Remember when the Internet was new and you’d give your email out to anyone and then about a year later they would sell the database for a few pennies and before you knew it “BAM” you got a ton of spam and you had to change your email address.

    Well, the social media Internet is in its infancy and unfortunatly Facebook is doing the wrong thing, blindly thinking they are protecting their turf and user data. But in a social network the data belongs to everyone. When you friend someone you are telling them “I trust you with my contact information.”

    Haven’t the shiny new technology companies learned the old school business rule number one? “The Customer IS ALWAYS RIGHT!”

    GIVE SCOBLE THE DATA!

  4. Doesn’t Facebook’s actions sound a lot like the early email marketers. Remember when the Internet was new and you’d give your email out to anyone and then about a year later they would sell the database for a few pennies and before you knew it “BAM” you got a ton of spam and you had to change your email address.

    Well, the social media Internet is in its infancy and unfortunatly Facebook is doing the wrong thing, blindly thinking they are protecting their turf and user data. But in a social network the data belongs to everyone. When you friend someone you are telling them “I trust you with my contact information.”

    Haven’t the shiny new technology companies learned the old school business rule number one? “The Customer IS ALWAYS RIGHT!”

    GIVE SCOBLE THE DATA!

  5. Apparently this sounds pretty strange but even a bit funny towards me. This policy of FB sounds a little like “If You Are Not With Us You Must Be Against Us”. I don´t even know if they did understand thias little web2.0 thingy. Sure, databases full of active users are a goood asset. But man, in these times of information sharing/social networking it is not smart to restrict the users, especially with this rigid actions.
    Don´t know if they may overview (from a strategic viewpoint) what am bs clusterf*ck they did to themselves with it.
    And so I actionly have to give the CSB right, with this strong kinda business-mind they may get rid of a lot users (which in return is their value, the xyz mio. ppl signed up there)

    I ll bet they´ll come after you, with a personal appreciation and so on (all stuff), when their public relations chief gets aware. So probably in the next 12 hours.

    to me this is another strong evidence, that I shall not give my personal information in the hand of a company, but to the ppl I want them to have – perhaps using a structure provided by a company =.D

  6. Apparently this sounds pretty strange but even a bit funny towards me. This policy of FB sounds a little like “If You Are Not With Us You Must Be Against Us”. I don´t even know if they did understand thias little web2.0 thingy. Sure, databases full of active users are a goood asset. But man, in these times of information sharing/social networking it is not smart to restrict the users, especially with this rigid actions.
    Don´t know if they may overview (from a strategic viewpoint) what am bs clusterf*ck they did to themselves with it.
    And so I actionly have to give the CSB right, with this strong kinda business-mind they may get rid of a lot users (which in return is their value, the xyz mio. ppl signed up there)

    I ll bet they´ll come after you, with a personal appreciation and so on (all stuff), when their public relations chief gets aware. So probably in the next 12 hours.

    to me this is another strong evidence, that I shall not give my personal information in the hand of a company, but to the ppl I want them to have – perhaps using a structure provided by a company =.D

  7. I wonder how many more people will get caught by stuff like this before they start asking themselves: “Why am I helping you build your business? What am I getting out of it?” Aside from a mildly entertaining way of wasting time, you get nothing and it can be taken away from you at any time. What they get – fuel for their furnace. It’s a bit one-sided if you ask me.

  8. I wonder how many more people will get caught by stuff like this before they start asking themselves: “Why am I helping you build your business? What am I getting out of it?” Aside from a mildly entertaining way of wasting time, you get nothing and it can be taken away from you at any time. What they get – fuel for their furnace. It’s a bit one-sided if you ask me.

  9. Here’s a sidebar thought: what if getting Robert’s data is one matter, but HOW the script executed was another. Meaning, if that script was somehow so intense that it spun a lot of disks at FB and heated up IO, etc, it would be a “threat” to the stability of the platform.

    In the same sense, even though you pay for electricity, the electric company doesn’t let you just throw a few generators into their grid for your own use. There are ways to do it and methods for interoperable power.

    I’m supportive of the notion of getting at one’s own data, but just now, my thought went to whether it was the method, not the goal.

  10. Here’s a sidebar thought: what if getting Robert’s data is one matter, but HOW the script executed was another. Meaning, if that script was somehow so intense that it spun a lot of disks at FB and heated up IO, etc, it would be a “threat” to the stability of the platform.

    In the same sense, even though you pay for electricity, the electric company doesn’t let you just throw a few generators into their grid for your own use. There are ways to do it and methods for interoperable power.

    I’m supportive of the notion of getting at one’s own data, but just now, my thought went to whether it was the method, not the goal.

  11. @10: Robert, that’s not a very fair comparison.

    Firstly, “wear and tear” or whatever you want to call it is included in the cost of using S3.

    Secondly, you’re assuming that because S3 can support that server load then automatically Facebook should support it.

    Should someone who pays for access to a professional forum site expect my little, free forum on my own server to handle the same load as the one they pay to access, then?

  12. @10: Robert, that’s not a very fair comparison.

    Firstly, “wear and tear” or whatever you want to call it is included in the cost of using S3.

    Secondly, you’re assuming that because S3 can support that server load then automatically Facebook should support it.

    Should someone who pays for access to a professional forum site expect my little, free forum on my own server to handle the same load as the one they pay to access, then?

  13. I agree with Dare. How is this YOUR data? Did you enter all of your contacts details? IM? Cell numbers? Email addresses? If so how is it YOUR data?

  14. I agree with Dare. How is this YOUR data? Did you enter all of your contacts details? IM? Cell numbers? Email addresses? If so how is it YOUR data?

  15. “if that were a problem then Amazon’s S3 wouldn’t be able to keep up with anything.”

    Ummmmm… S3 is storage. Running a script which pulls info from a database is not the same thing.

  16. “if that were a problem then Amazon’s S3 wouldn’t be able to keep up with anything.”

    Ummmmm… S3 is storage. Running a script which pulls info from a database is not the same thing.

  17. Hey Robert,

    Try to get your photos back out of Kodak Gallery or Snapfish. :) This data portability debate isn’t new, it isn’t going away, and I’m glad someone’s amping up the volume.

    If I take a photo, or write a blog post, or describe my network of friends – that’s MY data! Why on earth businesses don’t get that, and why consumers put up with it, I’ll never understand.

  18. Hey Robert,

    Try to get your photos back out of Kodak Gallery or Snapfish. :) This data portability debate isn’t new, it isn’t going away, and I’m glad someone’s amping up the volume.

    If I take a photo, or write a blog post, or describe my network of friends – that’s MY data! Why on earth businesses don’t get that, and why consumers put up with it, I’ll never understand.

  19. Meaning, if that script was somehow so intense that it spun a lot of disks at FB and heated up IO, etc, it would be a “threat” to the stability of the platform.

    This was the same line of reasoning AT&T used to justify their monopoly on the American telephone system. “We can’t just let anyone plug anything into the telephone network — what if it had the wrong voltages? It would threaten the stability of the telephone network.”

    Eventually they were persuaded that as long as there was a published STANDARD for interfacing to the network, people other than Western Electric could actually make telephones and — gasp! — SELL them to people (instead of renting them for a lifetime), and as long as the phones worked according to the same electrical standards as Ma Bell’s, they wouldn’t be a threat to the network.

    In this case the situation is even simpler. All Facebook has to do is throttle requests on the server side. Perhaps they let you download info on 10 friends at full speed; then they put in a 1-second delay between page requests for the next 100 friends; then a 10-second delay between page requests for the next 1000 friends, etc. ad nauseum. They can adjust the delay so that downloading data presents no appreciable impact on their resources. OR they can adjust it so that Robert’s script takes an annoyingly long time to complete.

    Point is that this is something Facebook, with their mega-billion-dollar valuation, could be coding up on the SERVER SIDE, instead of alienating their users.

    Easier to piss off users, I guess? Writing code is hard. ;-)

    GIVE SCOBLE THE DATA!

    Hey, if we are gonna start chanting and pumping our fists in the air, I suggest something a little more catchy, like FREE SCOBLE’S DATA!

    FREE SCOBLE’S DATA! FREE SCOBLE’S DATA! FREE SCOBLE’S DATA!

    Yeah, that has a nice ring to it. Now where did I put my pitchfork and torch…

  20. Meaning, if that script was somehow so intense that it spun a lot of disks at FB and heated up IO, etc, it would be a “threat” to the stability of the platform.

    This was the same line of reasoning AT&T used to justify their monopoly on the American telephone system. “We can’t just let anyone plug anything into the telephone network — what if it had the wrong voltages? It would threaten the stability of the telephone network.”

    Eventually they were persuaded that as long as there was a published STANDARD for interfacing to the network, people other than Western Electric could actually make telephones and — gasp! — SELL them to people (instead of renting them for a lifetime), and as long as the phones worked according to the same electrical standards as Ma Bell’s, they wouldn’t be a threat to the network.

    In this case the situation is even simpler. All Facebook has to do is throttle requests on the server side. Perhaps they let you download info on 10 friends at full speed; then they put in a 1-second delay between page requests for the next 100 friends; then a 10-second delay between page requests for the next 1000 friends, etc. ad nauseum. They can adjust the delay so that downloading data presents no appreciable impact on their resources. OR they can adjust it so that Robert’s script takes an annoyingly long time to complete.

    Point is that this is something Facebook, with their mega-billion-dollar valuation, could be coding up on the SERVER SIDE, instead of alienating their users.

    Easier to piss off users, I guess? Writing code is hard. ;-)

    GIVE SCOBLE THE DATA!

    Hey, if we are gonna start chanting and pumping our fists in the air, I suggest something a little more catchy, like FREE SCOBLE’S DATA!

    FREE SCOBLE’S DATA! FREE SCOBLE’S DATA! FREE SCOBLE’S DATA!

    Yeah, that has a nice ring to it. Now where did I put my pitchfork and torch…

  21. Also, lets look at what can be moved out

    Posted items – RSS
    Notes/blog – RSS
    Events – iCal/ics
    Your status updates – RSS
    Friends status updates – RSS

    All of the above plus photos of contacts are also accessible via the platform.

    Facebook is not the data whore people make it out to be. It can improve but so can everyone.

  22. Also, lets look at what can be moved out

    Posted items – RSS
    Notes/blog – RSS
    Events – iCal/ics
    Your status updates – RSS
    Friends status updates – RSS

    All of the above plus photos of contacts are also accessible via the platform.

    Facebook is not the data whore people make it out to be. It can improve but so can everyone.

  23. Only an idiot would post anymore than just the very basic info about what they do on facebook – don’t they know that they publish literally everything you do to the entire world and never delete anything?

    Try deleting a message, six months later if someone replies to your message, the “deleted” message comes back!!! Nothing is being deleted, just hidden!

  24. Only an idiot would post anymore than just the very basic info about what they do on facebook – don’t they know that they publish literally everything you do to the entire world and never delete anything?

    Try deleting a message, six months later if someone replies to your message, the “deleted” message comes back!!! Nothing is being deleted, just hidden!

  25. I’m wondering how Facebook is different from Michael Crook? Once your data is “out in the open” (since you posted your email, phone, etc.) then it’s pretty much in public. I’d like to see where they draw the line. BTW “scraping” information from Facebook is trivial – you don’t even need a script (of course it’s faster if use one) but you can use their very own FQL to find all the user_ids of your network and then from there it’s trivial to get the information using the user_ids using query requests (more tedious than a request but if you use it discretely you should get the info that you want) – of course, I’m assuming you’re doing all this for a “worthy cause” ;)

  26. I’m wondering how Facebook is different from Michael Crook? Once your data is “out in the open” (since you posted your email, phone, etc.) then it’s pretty much in public. I’d like to see where they draw the line. BTW “scraping” information from Facebook is trivial – you don’t even need a script (of course it’s faster if use one) but you can use their very own FQL to find all the user_ids of your network and then from there it’s trivial to get the information using the user_ids using query requests (more tedious than a request but if you use it discretely you should get the info that you want) – of course, I’m assuming you’re doing all this for a “worthy cause” ;)

  27. [...] Scobleizer – Unintended advantages “I’m getting dozens of emails asking for my script. See, there’s a ton of people who WANT to be deleted from Facebook. So far Facebook has been denying them, saying it’s impossible to delete everything you’ve ever done from Facebook.” OMG! *EVIL* (tags: facebook data ownership DONTBEEVIL suicide traceeradication) [...]

  28. If you go to https://register.facebook.com/editaccount.php (or just click “Account” in the upper right), there’s a link to deactivate your account, which is I think what they did to you. The data isn’t deleted, it’s just hidden until you decide to reactivate your account. So Facebook still doesn’t let you *delete* all that stuff, but then, neither does your script.

    I’ve had a few friends temporarily deactivate their accounts. It’s sort of creepy. It’s as if they never existed. But then, ta-da, they come back, and it’s as if they were never gone–except that there’s a strange gap in posts on their wall.

  29. If you go to https://register.facebook.com/editaccount.php (or just click “Account” in the upper right), there’s a link to deactivate your account, which is I think what they did to you. The data isn’t deleted, it’s just hidden until you decide to reactivate your account. So Facebook still doesn’t let you *delete* all that stuff, but then, neither does your script.

    I’ve had a few friends temporarily deactivate their accounts. It’s sort of creepy. It’s as if they never existed. But then, ta-da, they come back, and it’s as if they were never gone–except that there’s a strange gap in posts on their wall.