Facebook faces Plaxo (and others) in data conundrum

When 5000-Facebook-friends celebrity tech blogger Robert Scoble tested a forthcoming social networking utility called Plaxo Pulse to retrieve details of his Facebook friends, he got unceremoniously dumped by the social networking website.

Facebook told Scoble in an email that 'Our systems indicate that you've been highly active on Facebook lately and viewing pages at a quick enough rate that we suspect you may be running an automated script. This kind of activity would be a violation of our terms of use and potentially of federal and state laws. As a result, your account has been disabled.'

For some observers though, it shows a dangerous route that social networking websites are not hesitating to follow: considering their members details as their own.

Robert Scoble indicated the paradox of Facebook's "Valve": you can seamlessly import data from other sources (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo) but don't expect to export anything.

It also points to the reality that social networking are evolving into closed systems, just like operating systems did in the 1980s and 1990s, trying to prevent their own users from taking ownership of their own content.

But the worst was still to come as Scoble account was removed altogether from Facebook without any warning letter; and as Piers Fawkes writes on PSFK, don’t Worry About Big Companies & Your Privacy, Worry About Those “Friends”.