Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

Summary: Facebook has blocked another tool that lets you export your Facebook friends so you can import them elsewhere, like to Google+.

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On Sunday July 10, 2011, Facebook blocked Open-Xchange's tool that lets Facebook users export their friends so that they can be imported into other products and services. As I reported last week, the tool used approved Facebook APIs and was not in violation of Facebook's Terms and Conditions, or at least that's what Open-Xchange's management thought.

Facebook sent the following email to Open-Xchange:

We're writing to inform you that your app Connector for ox.io has been disabled for the following violations:

You cannot use a user's friend list outside of your application, even if a user consents to such use, but you can use connections between users who have both connected to your application. (FPP II.11)

Our expectation is that developers do not provide users with poor experiences, such as those resulting from inappropriate or misleading content, privacy and security vulnerabilities, and general spam in the Stream, Requests, and elsewhere. We appreciate your commitment to improving the application ecosystem on Platform.

Unsurprisingly, Open-Xchange was not amused. The company strongly believes that Facebook's data should be accessible to the users that have access to it on the site.

"If you want to see what a future looks like where a single company controls YOUR personal data for its own profit, this is a glimpse," Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna said in a statement. "Clearly, Facebook management does not want you to have the ability to take your personal information outside their walls to, say, Google+ and will do everything in their power to stop you, including violating their own terms and conditions. From a technical standpoint, Facebook's claim of violation of terms is preposterous. All we are doing is using the Facebook API to extract the last name and first name fields. We are not parsing or scraping the email address. That same data is available on Facebook under Account->Account Settings->Download Your Information in the resulting friends.html file. This is not about user experience. It is about Facebook NOT wanting anyone to control their personal information - except Facebook."

The tool in question uses a demo Open-Xchange user account, the official APIs from social and business networks, and emails you have sent from your email account, to match all your contact information. It works by merging all your networks, address books, and contacts from your emails into one big address book. This newly merged address book can then be exported as a vCard and imported into whatever service you like.

For each email account, Open-Xchange goes through every folder and uses the first 6,000 emails to look for contacts. At the end of the process, you're allowed to download the merged address book and then import it into Apple iCal, Gmail, Google+, Facebook, Outlook, and/or whatever other product or service you like. In my previous post describing the product's launch, I outlined the steps you needed to follow to use the tool, but they are unfortunately now useless.

Last week, Facebook blocked a Google Chrome extension for exporting Facebook contacts. Mohamed Mansour developed Facebook Friend Exporter to let you grab all the information about your Facebook friends so you can import them elsewhere. Because it got popular after the launch of Google+, Facebook noticed an increase in its usage and began to hide emails on its mobile site, which the extension requires. Mansour is working hard to make the tool work again.

Seeing Mansour's efforts thwarted, Open-Xchange wanted to offer some help. The company's approach was not as thorough or efficient as Facebook Friend Exporter, as it only focused on emails. Still, that's really all the information you need to import your contacts elsewhere. The process took a while because of the indirect route it takes to build a merged address book, but the advantage was that didn't appear to break Facebook's Terms of Service (while Facebook Friend Exporter does). In the end, this didn't matter, as Facebook found that the tool was in violation after all.

I asked Open-Xchange if the company plans to keep trying to make the tool work or if will simply accept Facebook's rules. "Stay tuned – this story is not over with by a long shot," an Open-Xchange spokesperson said in a statement.

See also:

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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55 comments
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  • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

    Isn't this the same kind of behavior exhibited by oppressive regimes whenever their citizens want to move to another country? Things like this only INCREASE a citizen's desire to escape.
    Scott Raymond
    • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

      @Scott Raymond I've been concerned about FB's blatant disregard of individual rights for as long as I've been using them (or should I say "they've been using ME"). This last episode may be enough to cause me to quit.
      The only problem is that FB has become an alternate Web for many people and organizations -- who use no direct websites or email accounts.
      LeonObo
  • Mark Zuckerberg wants to control my life!!!

    And limit my choices! And keep me in his walled garden! Boooooooo! Hisssssssss!
    BTW---Open-Xchange isn't a subsidiary of Google, is it?
    Userama
    • No, Not That I've Ever Heard

      @Userama
      Open-Xchange does not appear to be connected to Google in any way from the immediately available information about them. I've never heard of a Google involvement in the past.
      CFWhitman
  • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

    Sounds like FB fears G+
    neverhome
    • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

      Sounds like FB fears G+ [2]
      asterus@...
    • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

      @neverhome
      Sure does because their IPO will be soon I think. There are people who want to max their billions.
      root12
  • bye bye facebook

    I am SO happy I'm on google+, which is far better than facebook anyway, so I'll be dumping facebook just as soon as google+ is open to all.
    twiddly
    • I don't know about G+ (not on it), but..

      @twiddly <br>it sounds like FB is just trying to delay the inevitable. What a stupid, juvenile tactic. There has never been any doubt in my mind that FB thinks it owns its users, so this maneuver is not surprise. The problem is though that if someone really wants to use G+ they eventually will, regardless of any stunts that FB pulls.
      shawkins
      • Or Because of Them

        @shawkins
        Pulling stunts like that tends to make users more interested in leaving.
        CFWhitman
  • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

    This is getting interesting...
    Karla Porter
  • Two sides?

    Perhaps Facebook is as evil here as this story makes them sound, but from a journalistic perspective, this is way slanted. Someone from Facebook should have been interviewed to get the other side of the story. They deserve a chance to speak too.
    charley cross
    • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

      @charley cross
      This is a blog, not a news story. Journalists must state the facts and insure they are verified by multiple sources. Bloggers can say anything they want.

      It's time people learn the difference!
      mschauber
      • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

        @MedicNYC

        I agree a blogger doesn't have to do do those things. Just because a blogger isn't required to verify sources, doesn't mean they shouldn't. It also doesn't mean that readers shouldn't be pushing them to be a better blogger. Do you really think it is unreasonable to complain about a blog post that appears to favor one company over another, without collecting the opinions of both sides?
        zoredache
      • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

        @zoredache
        He had the response from Google, quoted. He had the response from the other side.

        It seems you don't want to read Bloggers, you want journalists.
        tmsbrdrs
    • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

      @charley cross I agree but what good would that have really done? They [Facebook] would have most likely sent the same response that they sent to Open-Xchange.

      Also, I agree with MedicNYC when he/she states, "This is a blog, not a news story. Journalists must state the facts and insure they are verified by multiple sources. Bloggers can say anything they want."

      Although interviewing only one side is fine in a blog, it gives more credence to the blogger when interviewing both sides instead of just one.

      Also, I don't see what the big deal is since Facebook gives the end user the option to download all their information. I may be speaking too soon since I do not know exactly what they [Facebook] includes in this zip file of information we, the users, have shared but I assume the info I need is available - it just is in an html file so importing it into another social network, your own address book, etc. may not be so easy, especially if you have many friends.

      John
      jollygreenguy@...
    • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

      @charley cross I appreciate your attempt to be fair, but Facebook was cited. They just didnt appear to have a reasonable explanation for their action.
      Theres nothing wrong with journalisitc "analysis". (stating opinioin) Makes things interesting.
      dbCon
    • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

      @charley cross
      I wouldn't give them a chance to speak. You'll only get some PR dribble.
      root12
    • RE: Facebook blocks Open-Xchange contact exporter tool

      @charley cross I agree that the story appears slanted -- but FB really IS evil.
      LeonObo
  • Power

    "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely."<br>-John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton
    pwatson