CyberTech Rambler

November 9, 2010

What I don’t like about FaceBook and Google’s spat over data

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:35 pm

The news on the web is Google is blocking FaceBook access to Gmail API for downloading contacts information, then FaceBook quickly create a workaround for the block.

The two things I do not like: (1) Google chooses to block particular vendor’s access to its API: Today it is FaceBook, tomorrow it could be me; And (2) FaceBook’s response by creating the workaround, instead of talking to Google.

I cannot fault Google’s motive in blocking FaceBook’s (and others who do not reciprocate data sharing) access to its API. it is true it is trying to ply open other’s data vault and is not shy to use its muscle to do it. I think the aim is correct, noble and is for the better general health of the web. Furthermore, I like the idea that I can move my data between providers.

What I do not like is Google selectively lock people off its API. Today it is for a noble aim, what about tomorrow when Google surrenders to the devil?

In effect, I am in a catch-22 situation and I don’t really have a solution for it.

I am not in a catch-22 situation with FaceBook. I condemn it outright. It is true that FaceBook had done nothing wrong with the workaround, but you do not expect a big company like Facebook to choose to behave like a crook that choose to run around/game Google’s restriction instead of tackling it head on like a man.

What Facebook did is to automate download of GMail data to user’s computer instead of requiring users to follow a set of instructions on GMail. It either (1) use a different API to get the data for user (no it didn’t), or (2)simply reconstruct the URL for user download by studing GMails download URL (which it did).

Facebook did not use a different API because either it is not available, or if it did, it knows Google can easily defeat it. It choose the URL effort because it knows it is difficult for Google to block. Normally, chosing the URL method is regarded as ethical as it is one of the few solutions you can employ to get data from a third party because they refuse to give you the data, but with Google, the case is different: Google has an official method for FaceBook to get the data, but FaceBook does not like Google’s term and condition so it decided to bypass it. What is this behaviour? Hacking. It is not white-hat hacking, nor grey-hat, it is black-hat hacking.

Will Google block this? Probably. If it does, I understand why it feels it has to. But I hope not. I think the objective of the exercise should be (if it is not) to expose Facebook as a leech of data and Google managed to do this already. It is not that much different from allowing users to download their data manually via Google’s official channel, then upload the data to FaceBook. I know Facebook is behaving like a little kid who steals the candy after he is told he cannot have it. But Google is bigger and way more mature than that. Google should enjoy the spanking it gave FaceBook. It is mission accomplish, especially if you take into account what Mike Davis from Ovum said  in this BBC article:

“People want social interaction to be easy. Exposing what you are doing could make some people question whether they want to do it”


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