Plaxo: the social monster?

Judi Sohn rips into the trustworthiness of both me and Plaxo for attempting to import email addresses, names, and birthdays.

First of all, just to make clear, I have NOT used any of the data I collected using Plaxo’s service. That all went into a separate test account and I’m not using that data and neither is Plaxo. Why not use it? Because of exactly the issues that Judi brings up. Trust.

Why do it? Well, I wanted to push Facebook’s buttons. I think it’s sad that they import email addresses and other data from Gmail and track my Blockbuster usage and use my adding my name to the Saturn page but they aren’t willing to share some of its data back out with these systems.

So, to Judi, why is it OK for Facebook to import all my Gmail email addresses? Why aren’t you screaming bloody murder about THAT? After all, did anyone on Gmail approve me to import their email addresses to Facebook?

On another similar, but tangental point.

What if I wrote down Judi’s email and then manually put it into my Outlook’s contact database. Wouldn’t that have been exactly the same thing that I tried to do with Plaxo’s script?

Second, if you add me as a friend I assume you want me to send you emails and interact with you. But, it’s clear that some of you didn’t really want me to do that when you added me as a friend. Maybe we need DRM for friends. Something with options like:

COMPLETELY OPEN: You’re allowed to take anything on my profile page and import it, use it, copy it, print it, import it.
EMAIL ONLY: You can only take my name, and email address to other systems.
EMAIL PLUS CORE PERSONAL INFO: In addition to email address and name you can also take my birthday and phone number to other systems.
CUSTOM: You choose which fields can be exported or used on other systems.
NAPKIN ONLY: You can use anything you want, but no automated systems, you’ve gotta manually copy everything over by hand.
PUBLIC ONLY: Only data that I put on my public profile can be used elsewhere.
FAN ONLY: I only wanted to see your social network and behaviors here, I don’t want to give you access to mine.

But, back to Judi: she asks what will Plaxo’s future owners do with the data it collects? Now THAT is a good question but I’m wondering the same thing about Facebook. Will they sell it to the government? Will they sell it to General Motors? Will they give it to their partners like Blockbuster?

EXCELLENT question!

The thing is, you shouldn’t worry too much about your friends. It’s easy to kick them in the butt if they sell you out. But what if Mark Zuckerberg sells you out? Or, even, decides to erase you for whatever reason he comes up with tomorrow? What then?

Oh, and to the few people who thought I had a financial arrangement with Plaxo, let me make this extremely clear: I disclose ALL financial arrangements with companies I use. I have NONE with Plaxo.

Is Plaxo a social monster for trying to import? That’s for you to decide, but why weren’t you all up in arms when Facebook imported your data and your friends email addresses from Gmail?

195 thoughts on “Plaxo: the social monster?

  1. Pingback: geek!daily
  2. Very good points and I like your ideas of controlling how we allow access to our information on other systems. Seems a little like OpenID. I like the fact that you added “FAN” as an option. There are tons of bloggers and others I’ve met that I wouldn’t call a friend, but I still have some contact with them and want to keep connected. This brings up another point that I’m a bit surprised you didn’t touch on. A friend is not always a friend. More importantly, a family member isn’t always a family member. I’m still waiting for the day when social networks will realize they can’t shoehorn everyone into a couple of predefined categories that *they* choose for all of their users. They should just allow the users to create their own categories and the settings for those categories. Oh, and create hierarchies too. After all, my wife’s family is not the same as my family and my aunt is not the same as my mom, yet they are all family.

  3. Very good points and I like your ideas of controlling how we allow access to our information on other systems. Seems a little like OpenID. I like the fact that you added “FAN” as an option. There are tons of bloggers and others I’ve met that I wouldn’t call a friend, but I still have some contact with them and want to keep connected. This brings up another point that I’m a bit surprised you didn’t touch on. A friend is not always a friend. More importantly, a family member isn’t always a family member. I’m still waiting for the day when social networks will realize they can’t shoehorn everyone into a couple of predefined categories that *they* choose for all of their users. They should just allow the users to create their own categories and the settings for those categories. Oh, and create hierarchies too. After all, my wife’s family is not the same as my family and my aunt is not the same as my mom, yet they are all family.

  4. Wow – this discussion is fascinating. It’s obvious people are still as passionate about privacy issues as they were a year ago when I left my position as Plaxo’s Chief Privacy Officer. While I’m no longer associated with Plaxo, I wanted to share my own thoughts on the matter.

    First, as long as people disagree on who owns PII (Personally Identifiable Information), there will always be disagreements over privacy. To me, it’s very clear – any PII data I possess through legitimate means, is my information. It may be information about me, my pet, my family, or my acquaintances… but the information is still my information… and I may do with that information whatever is legally permissible.

    If I post my information (or a subset) someplace where others can access it and read it… the source is still my information, but if others make a legitimate copy of the data, then that copy is now THEIR information. There is no copyright protection for contact details. If I don’t want others to have it, I should take better care when posting. By posting information in a public place, I should have full understanding of the possible implications.

    People are free to use their information as is legally permissible. Different countries may have different types of restrictions and laws when it comes to PII. But there is no country I’m aware of that prohibits the possession and storage of PII for personal purposes. Furthermore, there is no country that requires permission from the data subject in order for a data owner to posses and store PII information for personal purposes. Thank goodness for this, cause imagine the lunacy of requiring permission from the data subject everytime you wished to save their Name, email address, or phone number.

    In Scoble’s case, my understanding is he had legitimate access to the information and therefore has the ability to make the information his own. TOS issues aside, whether he writes the information down on his own, or uses some other tool, it’s simply a matter of degree and effort. I think it’s a stretch to describe’s FB’s TOS prohibiting automated screen scraping as an effort to protect members’ privacy. FB already protect’s members’ privacy by prohibiting unauthorized access to members’ information, regardless of what mechanism is used. Specifically prohibiting automated tools is more likely to protect the service from service attacks as well as maintain vendor lock-in, which I think is partially Scoble’s point.

    But one thing I do appreciate is FB statement regarding data ownership: Facebook doesn’t own a member’s data – the member does. This was one of the main principles we established at Plaxo and I’m happy to see other services have picked up on this as well. While I was at Plaxo, the basic privacy principles we established were: the member owns their information and decides who will have access to it; the member maintains ownership of their data at all times, even if the company is sold or merged, and the member can add, delete, or modify their information at any time. Read the privacy policy of other popular services, you’d be surprised how many of them service DON’T state this. Does this mean that THEY own their user’s data??? It’s scary.

  5. Wow – this discussion is fascinating. It’s obvious people are still as passionate about privacy issues as they were a year ago when I left my position as Plaxo’s Chief Privacy Officer. While I’m no longer associated with Plaxo, I wanted to share my own thoughts on the matter.

    First, as long as people disagree on who owns PII (Personally Identifiable Information), there will always be disagreements over privacy. To me, it’s very clear – any PII data I possess through legitimate means, is my information. It may be information about me, my pet, my family, or my acquaintances… but the information is still my information… and I may do with that information whatever is legally permissible.

    If I post my information (or a subset) someplace where others can access it and read it… the source is still my information, but if others make a legitimate copy of the data, then that copy is now THEIR information. There is no copyright protection for contact details. If I don’t want others to have it, I should take better care when posting. By posting information in a public place, I should have full understanding of the possible implications.

    People are free to use their information as is legally permissible. Different countries may have different types of restrictions and laws when it comes to PII. But there is no country I’m aware of that prohibits the possession and storage of PII for personal purposes. Furthermore, there is no country that requires permission from the data subject in order for a data owner to posses and store PII information for personal purposes. Thank goodness for this, cause imagine the lunacy of requiring permission from the data subject everytime you wished to save their Name, email address, or phone number.

    In Scoble’s case, my understanding is he had legitimate access to the information and therefore has the ability to make the information his own. TOS issues aside, whether he writes the information down on his own, or uses some other tool, it’s simply a matter of degree and effort. I think it’s a stretch to describe’s FB’s TOS prohibiting automated screen scraping as an effort to protect members’ privacy. FB already protect’s members’ privacy by prohibiting unauthorized access to members’ information, regardless of what mechanism is used. Specifically prohibiting automated tools is more likely to protect the service from service attacks as well as maintain vendor lock-in, which I think is partially Scoble’s point.

    But one thing I do appreciate is FB statement regarding data ownership: Facebook doesn’t own a member’s data – the member does. This was one of the main principles we established at Plaxo and I’m happy to see other services have picked up on this as well. While I was at Plaxo, the basic privacy principles we established were: the member owns their information and decides who will have access to it; the member maintains ownership of their data at all times, even if the company is sold or merged, and the member can add, delete, or modify their information at any time. Read the privacy policy of other popular services, you’d be surprised how many of them service DON’T state this. Does this mean that THEY own their user’s data??? It’s scary.

  6. @86 Not a Facebook user. Nice try. I see private investigating in your future.

    “The issue here involving TOSs is an ethical one, not a legal one. As far as I can see, nobody has broken any laws.”

    No, it IS a legal one. There’s civil and criminal law. This has to do with civil law, which more often than not doesn’t involve law breaking. The user, when signing up, is given adequate opportunity to read and view the TOS, and also has to AGREE to them. Basic contract law 101.

    “I’ve never read a TOS that involved paying money that promised me anything more than a refund if the product failed to perform (and even then the costs associated with getting that refund seem to exceed the refund amount).”

    I find that difficult if not outright impossible to believe. If you’ve ever opened a box of software you’ve agreed to similar Terms of Use, also known an End User License Agreement. If you’ve ever downloaded beta software you’ve agree to similar terms of use; particularly in the are of indemnity and the company’s responsibility for your data when using your software. My guess is, you’ve agree to similar types of TOS’s. Whether you actually read them or not is another question.

  7. @86 Not a Facebook user. Nice try. I see private investigating in your future.

    “The issue here involving TOSs is an ethical one, not a legal one. As far as I can see, nobody has broken any laws.”

    No, it IS a legal one. There’s civil and criminal law. This has to do with civil law, which more often than not doesn’t involve law breaking. The user, when signing up, is given adequate opportunity to read and view the TOS, and also has to AGREE to them. Basic contract law 101.

    “I’ve never read a TOS that involved paying money that promised me anything more than a refund if the product failed to perform (and even then the costs associated with getting that refund seem to exceed the refund amount).”

    I find that difficult if not outright impossible to believe. If you’ve ever opened a box of software you’ve agreed to similar Terms of Use, also known an End User License Agreement. If you’ve ever downloaded beta software you’ve agree to similar terms of use; particularly in the are of indemnity and the company’s responsibility for your data when using your software. My guess is, you’ve agree to similar types of TOS’s. Whether you actually read them or not is another question.

  8. I was trying to warn one of my friends with teenage daughters about the dangers of Facebook. It was amazing to me that her daughters were so in love with the program that nothing we told them could possibly make them stop. If anyone has a good way to help explain to teenage girls the dangers that it trully poses for them and their future, please post it so that I can use it. Thanks!

  9. I was trying to warn one of my friends with teenage daughters about the dangers of Facebook. It was amazing to me that her daughters were so in love with the program that nothing we told them could possibly make them stop. If anyone has a good way to help explain to teenage girls the dangers that it trully poses for them and their future, please post it so that I can use it. Thanks!

  10. #86: You’re being too kind to vendors.

    I’ve never read a TOS that involved paying money that promised me anything more than a refund if the product failed to perform (and even then the costs associated with getting that refund seem to exceed the refund amount).

    The issue here involving TOSs is an ethical one, not a legal one. As far as I can see, nobody has broken any laws.

    It seems clear that there are Facebook users here so rabid that they can’t conceive of the company being wrong about anything. Considering their recent and documented excesses, this is quite impressive. You can indeed fool some of the people all of the time. But we already knew that.

    I’m starting to think that Google was very lucky to not have gotten involved with this company.

    I feel sorry for some of my friends who have given out so much information on themselves via Facebook to companies that they know nothing about, in exchange for being able to throw virtual sheep or food items at one another.

    I read one post above from someone who had never installed a single Facebook app. There must be very few people in that category. The Facebook apps are hardly a replacement for e-mail, photo sharing, blogging or dozens of other things people do on the Internet. Facebook is in the cat-bird-seat, collecting all the profitable information about their users and leaving the heavy lifting to companies and individuals all over the world, in many cases way out of reach of our legal system.

    The people who have used some of these apps are going to need something like Plaxo, because there will be a flurry of e-mail address changes in the next couple of years as all of this information gets out and the old addresses become unusable.

    #41: You got the hypocrisy right. You need more typos in your message though. It’s getting really hard to believe that Facebook started out with an exclusive college user base. A bit scary too.

  11. #86: You’re being too kind to vendors.

    I’ve never read a TOS that involved paying money that promised me anything more than a refund if the product failed to perform (and even then the costs associated with getting that refund seem to exceed the refund amount).

    The issue here involving TOSs is an ethical one, not a legal one. As far as I can see, nobody has broken any laws.

    It seems clear that there are Facebook users here so rabid that they can’t conceive of the company being wrong about anything. Considering their recent and documented excesses, this is quite impressive. You can indeed fool some of the people all of the time. But we already knew that.

    I’m starting to think that Google was very lucky to not have gotten involved with this company.

    I feel sorry for some of my friends who have given out so much information on themselves via Facebook to companies that they know nothing about, in exchange for being able to throw virtual sheep or food items at one another.

    I read one post above from someone who had never installed a single Facebook app. There must be very few people in that category. The Facebook apps are hardly a replacement for e-mail, photo sharing, blogging or dozens of other things people do on the Internet. Facebook is in the cat-bird-seat, collecting all the profitable information about their users and leaving the heavy lifting to companies and individuals all over the world, in many cases way out of reach of our legal system.

    The people who have used some of these apps are going to need something like Plaxo, because there will be a flurry of e-mail address changes in the next couple of years as all of this information gets out and the old addresses become unusable.

    #41: You got the hypocrisy right. You need more typos in your message though. It’s getting really hard to believe that Facebook started out with an exclusive college user base. A bit scary too.

  12. First off, Plaxo spams everyone in your contact list with requests to update. That, in itself, should show you that importing your contacts into Plaxo is a bad idea (unless you really want to make them ex-contacts).

    People signed up for Facebook and made you a “friend”. They didn’t give you permission to fold, spindle, and mutilate their personal information via non-Facebook systems, spam them, drop by their RL residence uninvited, or stalk them.

    Your actions are one of the reasons people point out as the evils of social networking.

  13. First off, Plaxo spams everyone in your contact list with requests to update. That, in itself, should show you that importing your contacts into Plaxo is a bad idea (unless you really want to make them ex-contacts).

    People signed up for Facebook and made you a “friend”. They didn’t give you permission to fold, spindle, and mutilate their personal information via non-Facebook systems, spam them, drop by their RL residence uninvited, or stalk them.

    Your actions are one of the reasons people point out as the evils of social networking.

  14. Hey, there is a new web 2.0 service to counter the trend of over the top media sharing promoted by social networking sites.

    2Pad was developed by 3 French entrepreneurs as the only private photo and sharing service. Using the latest in web technology, such as Ajax, 2Pad allows you to privately share your media from your personal gallery.

    Simply start by sending your media via email to 2pad@2pad.com and 2Pad automatically creates your personal gallery. We would love you to test it out and send us feedback!
    Thanks!
    Susi and the 2Pad Team.

  15. Hey, there is a new web 2.0 service to counter the trend of over the top media sharing promoted by social networking sites.

    2Pad was developed by 3 French entrepreneurs as the only private photo and sharing service. Using the latest in web technology, such as Ajax, 2Pad allows you to privately share your media from your personal gallery.

    Simply start by sending your media via email to 2pad@2pad.com and 2Pad automatically creates your personal gallery. We would love you to test it out and send us feedback!
    Thanks!
    Susi and the 2Pad Team.

  16. @83

    “You know, back in the day, a lot of people put King, Jackson & Sharpton in the same bucket. Though we have a holiday for MLK now.”

    And there’s a reason we don’t have a Jackson or Sharpton holiday. At one time I’m sure Jackson was a true supported of MLK, given he was there the day King was shot. But then he saw he could make a lot of money preying off of perceived racism. But…we digress.

    “I do not know what you mean by “concerned more about visiblity.” Doesn’t knowing his true “concerns” involve the ability to read his mind? Scoble says he just wants to try out this Plaxo program, but you (being able to read minds) know that his real motivation is “visibility,” whatever that means.”

    True I cannot read his mind. I can only go by his actions. I’m sure there is some reason he didn’t want to handle this privately and not tell the world what happened. Just like Jackson never does much behind the scenes

    “The story Scoble commented on (mentioned by Lisa @ 61) was about a guy who took 4,600 addresses out of Gmail, and MASS E-MAILED ALL 4,600 ADDRESSES with invitations to join Facebook.

    Scoble left a comment calling that “spam behavior.” Presumably because it is. :-) If AOL or Comcast sees several hundred messages dumped on their doorstep by a Facebook mail server, Facebook might end up on a spam/UCE blacklist.

    Sending unsolicited email to 4,600 people isn’t the same thing as harvesting 5,000 email addresses. They’re totally different things. You can be against sending email to 5,000 people while being in favor of being able to collect 5,000 email addresses. One involves annoying people and the other doesn’t. :-)”

    True. But had he not gotten caught and his hand slapped, we have no idea what Plaxo would have done with the data. But, given their past history……. True, Scoble says “he didn’t do anything the data”, but we will never know for sure.

    “Remember, Facebook is one in power here: they’re the ones with the 15 billion dollar valuation, they’re the ones “erasing” people without so much as a WARNING, they’re the ones sponsoring Presidential Debates in New Hampshire. We’re just the people. So yeah, power to the PEOPLE, baby! Can you dig it? :-)”

    This again is the two wrongs make a right illogical argument. You do understand the concept of “participate volunaritly”?. Facebook users signed up for this when they created an account. Shame on them for finding out later how one sided their TOC’s are. Do I agree with them? No. But, they are really not all that different than other types of FREE services. The user assumes all the risk. Until you start paying money, that’s pretty much how it is. Users agreed to these terms when they signed up. Facebook will only change them if they can still legally protect themselves.

  17. @83

    “You know, back in the day, a lot of people put King, Jackson & Sharpton in the same bucket. Though we have a holiday for MLK now.”

    And there’s a reason we don’t have a Jackson or Sharpton holiday. At one time I’m sure Jackson was a true supported of MLK, given he was there the day King was shot. But then he saw he could make a lot of money preying off of perceived racism. But…we digress.

    “I do not know what you mean by “concerned more about visiblity.” Doesn’t knowing his true “concerns” involve the ability to read his mind? Scoble says he just wants to try out this Plaxo program, but you (being able to read minds) know that his real motivation is “visibility,” whatever that means.”

    True I cannot read his mind. I can only go by his actions. I’m sure there is some reason he didn’t want to handle this privately and not tell the world what happened. Just like Jackson never does much behind the scenes

    “The story Scoble commented on (mentioned by Lisa @ 61) was about a guy who took 4,600 addresses out of Gmail, and MASS E-MAILED ALL 4,600 ADDRESSES with invitations to join Facebook.

    Scoble left a comment calling that “spam behavior.” Presumably because it is. :-) If AOL or Comcast sees several hundred messages dumped on their doorstep by a Facebook mail server, Facebook might end up on a spam/UCE blacklist.

    Sending unsolicited email to 4,600 people isn’t the same thing as harvesting 5,000 email addresses. They’re totally different things. You can be against sending email to 5,000 people while being in favor of being able to collect 5,000 email addresses. One involves annoying people and the other doesn’t. :-)”

    True. But had he not gotten caught and his hand slapped, we have no idea what Plaxo would have done with the data. But, given their past history……. True, Scoble says “he didn’t do anything the data”, but we will never know for sure.

    “Remember, Facebook is one in power here: they’re the ones with the 15 billion dollar valuation, they’re the ones “erasing” people without so much as a WARNING, they’re the ones sponsoring Presidential Debates in New Hampshire. We’re just the people. So yeah, power to the PEOPLE, baby! Can you dig it? :-)”

    This again is the two wrongs make a right illogical argument. You do understand the concept of “participate volunaritly”?. Facebook users signed up for this when they created an account. Shame on them for finding out later how one sided their TOC’s are. Do I agree with them? No. But, they are really not all that different than other types of FREE services. The user assumes all the risk. Until you start paying money, that’s pretty much how it is. Users agreed to these terms when they signed up. Facebook will only change them if they can still legally protect themselves.

  18. I totally don’t understand the problem. I’m a bit like Judi Sohn – I don’t want someone I don’t really know to have access to my profile, so I do not ‘friend’ such people on Facebook.

    People seem to have mixed up expectations. It should be utterly obvious that the ‘FAN ONLY’ permission type Robert mentions does not exist at the moment – so why expect that to be honored?

  19. I totally don’t understand the problem. I’m a bit like Judi Sohn – I don’t want someone I don’t really know to have access to my profile, so I do not ‘friend’ such people on Facebook.

    People seem to have mixed up expectations. It should be utterly obvious that the ‘FAN ONLY’ permission type Robert mentions does not exist at the moment – so why expect that to be honored?

  20. hypocrite? Puhleazze.

    “Hypocrisy is the act of condemning another person for an act of which the critic is guilty.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypocrite

    Facebook condemns you for screen scraping email addresses. Yet they screen-scrape email addresses every day, from Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo! Mail, in violation of Terms of Service. Facebook = hypocrite.

    I like knowing that my data is a (or at least should be) a one-way street. I *choose* to put it in there. FB is doing the right thing detecting and enforcing that someone was running a script.

    You know, I could almost buy the “Facebook as Protector and Guardian of Your Data” thing if it weren’t for Facebook Beacon. Obviously they’re only interested in protecting your privacy to the extent it doesn’t interfere with them turning a buck.

  21. hypocrite? Puhleazze.

    “Hypocrisy is the act of condemning another person for an act of which the critic is guilty.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypocrite

    Facebook condemns you for screen scraping email addresses. Yet they screen-scrape email addresses every day, from Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo! Mail, in violation of Terms of Service. Facebook = hypocrite.

    I like knowing that my data is a (or at least should be) a one-way street. I *choose* to put it in there. FB is doing the right thing detecting and enforcing that someone was running a script.

    You know, I could almost buy the “Facebook as Protector and Guardian of Your Data” thing if it weren’t for Facebook Beacon. Obviously they’re only interested in protecting your privacy to the extent it doesn’t interfere with them turning a buck.

  22. The DRM that Robert proposes is fine-grained control and what FB already has. You control what can be seen on a per item basis, but it applies the same to everyone. What I’m proposing is computed on-the-fly depending on who you are talking to. The context of the conversation changes the rules.

    Another way to interpret what he is saying is that I have to explicitly set it for each friend. This doesn’t scale, especially for 5000 friends.

    The level proposal is a general agreement in principle. Of course, is someone is scum, they will say “I share nothing” when, in fact, they will.

    Trust.

  23. The DRM that Robert proposes is fine-grained control and what FB already has. You control what can be seen on a per item basis, but it applies the same to everyone. What I’m proposing is computed on-the-fly depending on who you are talking to. The context of the conversation changes the rules.

    Another way to interpret what he is saying is that I have to explicitly set it for each friend. This doesn’t scale, especially for 5000 friends.

    The level proposal is a general agreement in principle. Of course, is someone is scum, they will say “I share nothing” when, in fact, they will.

    Trust.

  24. Scoble wasn’t trying to the Martin Luther King of social networking. More like trying to be the Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson…concerned more about visibility than actual change.

    You know, back in the day, a lot of people put King, Jackson & Sharpton in the same bucket. Though we have a holiday for MLK now.

    I do not know what you mean by “concerned more about visiblity.” Doesn’t knowing his true “concerns” involve the ability to read his mind? Scoble says he just wants to try out this Plaxo program, but you (being able to read minds) know that his real motivation is “visibility,” whatever that means.

    We can guess at his “real” motivation all day long, but you can only reasonably discuss what he actually did and said.

    And in the end, what does it matter anyway? Did Scoble, King, Jackson or Sharpton do everything they did because, deep down inside, they were all attention whores? The motivation doesn’t matter quite so much as the acts themselves. Besides, half the time people don’t know their OWN motivations!

    The other half of the time they project their own motivations onto others. ;-)

    I would have been inclined to almost buy into your “power to the people” theory if not for what Lisa @61 above points out. It appears Scoble is being a hypocrite. He didn’t agree with it then.
    :-) It doesn’t look like he’s being a hypocrite to me, because they’re two different issues.

    The story Scoble commented on (mentioned by Lisa @ 61) was about a guy who took 4,600 addresses out of Gmail, and MASS E-MAILED ALL 4,600 ADDRESSES with invitations to join Facebook.

    Scoble left a comment calling that “spam behavior.” Presumably because it is. :-) If AOL or Comcast sees several hundred messages dumped on their doorstep by a Facebook mail server, Facebook might end up on a spam/UCE blacklist.

    Sending unsolicited email to 4,600 people isn’t the same thing as harvesting 5,000 email addresses. They’re totally different things. You can be against sending email to 5,000 people while being in favor of being able to collect 5,000 email addresses. One involves annoying people and the other doesn’t. :-)

    Remember, Facebook is one in power here: they’re the ones with the 15 billion dollar valuation, they’re the ones “erasing” people without so much as a WARNING, they’re the ones sponsoring Presidential Debates in New Hampshire. We’re just the people. So yeah, power to the PEOPLE, baby! Can you dig it? :-)

  25. Scoble wasn’t trying to the Martin Luther King of social networking. More like trying to be the Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson…concerned more about visibility than actual change.

    You know, back in the day, a lot of people put King, Jackson & Sharpton in the same bucket. Though we have a holiday for MLK now.

    I do not know what you mean by “concerned more about visiblity.” Doesn’t knowing his true “concerns” involve the ability to read his mind? Scoble says he just wants to try out this Plaxo program, but you (being able to read minds) know that his real motivation is “visibility,” whatever that means.

    We can guess at his “real” motivation all day long, but you can only reasonably discuss what he actually did and said.

    And in the end, what does it matter anyway? Did Scoble, King, Jackson or Sharpton do everything they did because, deep down inside, they were all attention whores? The motivation doesn’t matter quite so much as the acts themselves. Besides, half the time people don’t know their OWN motivations!

    The other half of the time they project their own motivations onto others. ;-)

    I would have been inclined to almost buy into your “power to the people” theory if not for what Lisa @61 above points out. It appears Scoble is being a hypocrite. He didn’t agree with it then.
    :-) It doesn’t look like he’s being a hypocrite to me, because they’re two different issues.

    The story Scoble commented on (mentioned by Lisa @ 61) was about a guy who took 4,600 addresses out of Gmail, and MASS E-MAILED ALL 4,600 ADDRESSES with invitations to join Facebook.

    Scoble left a comment calling that “spam behavior.” Presumably because it is. :-) If AOL or Comcast sees several hundred messages dumped on their doorstep by a Facebook mail server, Facebook might end up on a spam/UCE blacklist.

    Sending unsolicited email to 4,600 people isn’t the same thing as harvesting 5,000 email addresses. They’re totally different things. You can be against sending email to 5,000 people while being in favor of being able to collect 5,000 email addresses. One involves annoying people and the other doesn’t. :-)

    Remember, Facebook is one in power here: they’re the ones with the 15 billion dollar valuation, they’re the ones “erasing” people without so much as a WARNING, they’re the ones sponsoring Presidential Debates in New Hampshire. We’re just the people. So yeah, power to the PEOPLE, baby! Can you dig it? :-)

  26. I like Scolbe’s idea of DRM to profile data.

    Its like mini-me: I, me, Mine.. implemented, especially keeping in mind American sensibilities around privacy and private data etc.

    I just somehow, dont understand why: people enter Gmail and other userid and password data on such sites !

    Anyway, we would be launching mine-me ( I, Me, Mine) stuff –> Robert Scolbe calls it DRM for profile data.. Cool..

    ciao
    ajay

  27. I like Scolbe’s idea of DRM to profile data.

    Its like mini-me: I, me, Mine.. implemented, especially keeping in mind American sensibilities around privacy and private data etc.

    I just somehow, dont understand why: people enter Gmail and other userid and password data on such sites !

    Anyway, we would be launching mine-me ( I, Me, Mine) stuff –> Robert Scolbe calls it DRM for profile data.. Cool..

    ciao
    ajay

  28. Karim … hypocrite? Puhleazze. And certainly not as critical as the risk of the data leaving without your permission. If you had of read the FB TOS, you would know not to back yourself into a corner.

    To be honest … I like the corner. I like knowing that my data is a (or at least should be) a one-way street. I *choose* to put it in there. FB is doing the right thing detecting and enforcing that someone was running a script. I know all bets are off when I add a third-party FB application, which is why I don’t add them. Nothing. Not one. I only use FB sanctioned apps which live under the FB TOS and privacy policy. Your mileage may vary.

    As I’ve mentioned to friend, I think the solution is to support multi-tiered privacy in addition to the fine-grained privacy that FB offers.

    Let’s say (back of the napkin):

    Level 1 – I won’t share anything about you. Promise.

    Level 2 – I may share your status, hobbies, movies, etc.

    Level 3 – I may share your name, gender, age and general geography.

    Level 4 – I may share your phone numbers, home address or email.

    Level 5 – I don’t promise anything. Give me your info at your own risk.

    For example, “Only share [this data] with friends that offer privacy level 2 or less” where N is some gradient of assurance/promise. The platform should enforce no one gets what they shouldn’t. It’s privacy policies on a relationship-by-relationship basis.

    In this case, Robert was Level 5.

    That way, of the 5000 FB friend of Scoble only a lazy or care-free subset could have their data exported.

    Thoughts?

  29. Karim … hypocrite? Puhleazze. And certainly not as critical as the risk of the data leaving without your permission. If you had of read the FB TOS, you would know not to back yourself into a corner.

    To be honest … I like the corner. I like knowing that my data is a (or at least should be) a one-way street. I *choose* to put it in there. FB is doing the right thing detecting and enforcing that someone was running a script. I know all bets are off when I add a third-party FB application, which is why I don’t add them. Nothing. Not one. I only use FB sanctioned apps which live under the FB TOS and privacy policy. Your mileage may vary.

    As I’ve mentioned to friend, I think the solution is to support multi-tiered privacy in addition to the fine-grained privacy that FB offers.

    Let’s say (back of the napkin):

    Level 1 – I won’t share anything about you. Promise.

    Level 2 – I may share your status, hobbies, movies, etc.

    Level 3 – I may share your name, gender, age and general geography.

    Level 4 – I may share your phone numbers, home address or email.

    Level 5 – I don’t promise anything. Give me your info at your own risk.

    For example, “Only share [this data] with friends that offer privacy level 2 or less” where N is some gradient of assurance/promise. The platform should enforce no one gets what they shouldn’t. It’s privacy policies on a relationship-by-relationship basis.

    In this case, Robert was Level 5.

    That way, of the 5000 FB friend of Scoble only a lazy or care-free subset could have their data exported.

    Thoughts?

  30. @78. He knew going in what the rules are. Hypocritical or not, he agreed to them. This is not akin to civil disobedience. This is more akin to going to a free concert, knowing that recording devices aren’t allowed, but using them anyway and bitching about getting caught and thrown out, but then saying it’s not fair because the concert promoter was recording the concert for a future album release. Scoble wasn’t trying to the Martin Luther King of social networking. More like trying to be the Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson…concerned more about visibility than actual change.

    I would have been inclined to almost buy into your “power to the people” theory if not for what Lisa @61 above points out. It appears Scoble is being a hypocrite. He didn’t agree with it then. My guess is because he couldn’t figure out how to do it himself so he came out against it. Now that someone ELSE provided him a tool for a product he’s shilled for in the past, he’s fine with it.

  31. @78. He knew going in what the rules are. Hypocritical or not, he agreed to them. This is not akin to civil disobedience. This is more akin to going to a free concert, knowing that recording devices aren’t allowed, but using them anyway and bitching about getting caught and thrown out, but then saying it’s not fair because the concert promoter was recording the concert for a future album release. Scoble wasn’t trying to the Martin Luther King of social networking. More like trying to be the Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson…concerned more about visibility than actual change.

    I would have been inclined to almost buy into your “power to the people” theory if not for what Lisa @61 above points out. It appears Scoble is being a hypocrite. He didn’t agree with it then. My guess is because he couldn’t figure out how to do it himself so he came out against it. Now that someone ELSE provided him a tool for a product he’s shilled for in the past, he’s fine with it.

  32. @68 And I’m sure as an employee of Plaxo you don’t mind LinkedIn’s offering, either. But you are still missing the point. Linked in permits their users to do that (and they also require you to PAY them to be able to do that).

    Write or wrong, FB doesn’t allow it. LinkedIn does. The point is the blatant violation of the FB TOS. If I were Plaxo and I really wanted to mine the FB directory, I would have reached out to FB and proposed a service to them that was a win/win so everyone could be up front about what was happening.

  33. @68 And I’m sure as an employee of Plaxo you don’t mind LinkedIn’s offering, either. But you are still missing the point. Linked in permits their users to do that (and they also require you to PAY them to be able to do that).

    Write or wrong, FB doesn’t allow it. LinkedIn does. The point is the blatant violation of the FB TOS. If I were Plaxo and I really wanted to mine the FB directory, I would have reached out to FB and proposed a service to them that was a win/win so everyone could be up front about what was happening.

  34. Whether Scoble read them or not, or even understood them, he agreed to FB’s [TOS] by creating an account. So, what FB does or doesn’t do wrt to other systems is irrelevant to this issue. Scoble violated terms he agreed to.

    I agree he violated Facebook’s ToS (if you assume that the Plaxo program qualifies as a “script”); I agree two wrongs don’t make a right. BUT…

    All Scoble was doing to Facebook was what Facebook constantly does to others. In that sense, he is doing several things: pointing out a MASSIVE hypocrisy on Facebook’s part, for one. Making it clear that Facebook’s idea of customer service is to kick your ass to the curb and ask questions later, for another. Making folks think, and getting people to discuss the issues involved, for another.

    In some ways, what Scoble did was analogous to civil disobedience. In civil disobedience, people EXPECT to be arrested, because they are breaking some minor law (in a non-violent way) in order to bring the public’s attention to some OTHER wrong that is FAR, FAR GREATER.

    In this case, Scoble has brought our attention to the fact that Facebook is a MASSIVE hypocrite: it constantly screen-scrapes email addresses from other email services, but doesn’t allow YOU to do the same to Facebook. He has also brought to our attention their stellar “shoot first, ask questions later” customer service. And he’s making a lot of people think about how dependent they are on the services they use.

  35. Whether Scoble read them or not, or even understood them, he agreed to FB’s [TOS] by creating an account. So, what FB does or doesn’t do wrt to other systems is irrelevant to this issue. Scoble violated terms he agreed to.

    I agree he violated Facebook’s ToS (if you assume that the Plaxo program qualifies as a “script”); I agree two wrongs don’t make a right. BUT…

    All Scoble was doing to Facebook was what Facebook constantly does to others. In that sense, he is doing several things: pointing out a MASSIVE hypocrisy on Facebook’s part, for one. Making it clear that Facebook’s idea of customer service is to kick your ass to the curb and ask questions later, for another. Making folks think, and getting people to discuss the issues involved, for another.

    In some ways, what Scoble did was analogous to civil disobedience. In civil disobedience, people EXPECT to be arrested, because they are breaking some minor law (in a non-violent way) in order to bring the public’s attention to some OTHER wrong that is FAR, FAR GREATER.

    In this case, Scoble has brought our attention to the fact that Facebook is a MASSIVE hypocrite: it constantly screen-scrapes email addresses from other email services, but doesn’t allow YOU to do the same to Facebook. He has also brought to our attention their stellar “shoot first, ask questions later” customer service. And he’s making a lot of people think about how dependent they are on the services they use.

  36. Thanks, Olly. But I was asking about the information belonging to *non members.* Folks who were added to the Plaxo system through a member syncing a database (or running a Facebook script).

    I’m glad Plaxo will notify members before the company is sold. Will they also send notice to everyone I added to my contact list? To the folks that Robert scraped from Facebook into his test account? While you can ask to be removed from a member’s address book, can you ask to be removed from ALL member address books?

    I’m not saying that I think the answers to these questions are negative. I’m saying these are questions that should have been asked and answered before running a “push Facebook’s buttons” script loose on 5,000 of your “friends.”

  37. Thanks, Olly. But I was asking about the information belonging to *non members.* Folks who were added to the Plaxo system through a member syncing a database (or running a Facebook script).

    I’m glad Plaxo will notify members before the company is sold. Will they also send notice to everyone I added to my contact list? To the folks that Robert scraped from Facebook into his test account? While you can ask to be removed from a member’s address book, can you ask to be removed from ALL member address books?

    I’m not saying that I think the answers to these questions are negative. I’m saying these are questions that should have been asked and answered before running a “push Facebook’s buttons” script loose on 5,000 of your “friends.”

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