Facebook, Microsoft and Data Portability

Michael Arrington has a great piece up on TechCrunch entitled “The Very Curious Microsoft-Facebook User Data Relationship“. In it, he shines a spotlight on a most curious thing — that Facebook has given Microsoft access to data on Facebook users that they have said they would not give to anyone, as it would violate users’ privacy. Specifically, he shows screenshots of an import of a Facebook friends list into Microsoft’s IM client, Messenger, in which the user ends up with the email addresses of all of the their friends (and can then connect with them or invite them to Messenger).

As you may recall, this was at the heart of the controversy now know as “Scoblegate,” in which Plaxo had created a Facebook importer that brought a user’s friends list, including email address over into the Plaxo address book. Aside from the interesting questions Michael Arrington raises, I would add this observation: It is great to see this functionality out there, live since March, without a single bit of controversy. That speaks to the utility of data portability. If social networking really is about real people and real relationships, it would be great if sharing information were real sharing of information, not tethered-sharing , which is essentially “social DRM”.

Also, really funny how the official blogpost from Microsoft directly references the Scoblegate incident! That is a head-scratcher!

Updates:

One, I’d love to hear Dare Obasanjo’s perspective on this. A refresher on his position on this issue as of last January.

Two, check out the comment on TechCrunch from Facebook’s privacy officer, Chris Kelly. While he corrects a few things, he does not deny that they are sharing email addresses with Microsoft.

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