Nexus S update blocks Facebook contact syncing

Google's latest update to its Android 2.3 'Gingerbread' mobile platform has brought a nasty surprise for fans of Facebook: contacts are no longer inserted into the Android Contacts app.

With previous editions of Facebook on Android, it was possible for a user to hit the 'Sync friends with Contacts' option to add the details of Facebook friends to the internal contacts list within Android. The latest release of Android, however, removes that option - and, if the contacts were already synced, it unceremoniously removes the Facebook entries from the Contacts app.

The move, which only affects those users who use the official Facebook app on a Nexus S or newer handset running Android 2.3.3, was first spotted by TechCrunch - but Google claims it's doing nothing wrong.

"We believe it is very important that users are able to control their data," the advertising giant claimed in a statement. "So in the over-the-air update for Nexus S, we have a small change to how Facebook contacts appear on the device. For Nexus S users who downloaded the Facebook app from Android Market, Facebook contacts will no longer appear to be integrated with the Android Contacts app.

"Since Facebook contacts cannot be exported from the device, the appearance of integration created a false sense of data portability," Google goes on to claim. "Like all developers on Android, Facebook is free to use the Android contacts API to truly integrate contacts on the device, which would allow users to have more control over their data. We are removing the special-case handling of Facebook contacts on Nexus S and future lead devices."

Google's issue appears to stem from the fact that the Facebook app doesn't really sync the contacts. Instead, it keeps them on Facebook's servers - meaning that users aren't able to include the Facebook entries in an export of the Contacts database, and if the Facebook app is uninstalled the contacts go too.

While the Nexus One, which has recently received the same update as the company's flagship Nexus S, won't be getting the same treatment, Google has confirmed that all future devices will be expected to treat Facebook in the same way.

The move will be a blow to those who enjoy the Facebook app, but the message from Google is clear: no matter how big you are, you'll obey the rules of the Android platform.