back to article Facebook engineer bashes Google for Gmail block

A Facebook engineer has publicly chastised Google for snipping Facebook's access to the Gmail Contacts API, accusing the search giant of data-hoarding hypocrisy. But in doing so, he unloads more than a little hypocrisy of his own. "Openness doesn't mean being open when its convenient for you," Mike Vernal, a member of the …


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  1. Goat Jam

    Ignoring Googles motives

    it would seem that Facebook is trying to have it both ways.

    I have no doubt that Google would really like to grow the already gargantuan amount of data it has in its databases but the bottom line is if you don't like it then don't use Google. Or Twitbook.

    If Facebook want to allow users to get their google data into facebook then it seems only fair that they provide Google with the necessary API to allow users to do the reverse procedure.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Holier than thou

    Hold on... Facebook isn't friends with my friends, I am... So if I want to take them some where else then I should be able to. Don't give me that self righteous BS about it being a matter of privacy.

  3. Tom 15


    Eh? "prevent their users from leaving Google products to use ones they like better instead"?

    When did Facebook offer an email client?

    1. Code Monkey

      It is an email client, kinda

      For a lot of people FB has replaced email. And indeed I tend not to email people who are on FB as a message/wall post generally earns me a quicker reply.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton

        Er, no.

        Being friends with people doesn't give you the right to use their info without their permission, no matter how much you think they trust you.

  4. mccp

    Email addresses

    Mike Vernal makes a good point about email addresses. As a casual user of Facebook it seems to me that I can make friends with people without knowing their email addresses, or them knowing mine. If I want to unfriend someone I can easily do that, safe(ish) in the knowledge that they do not have any of my personal contact details.

    I can agree with Google up to a point - FB should let me liberate any data that I have uploaded, but beyond that, I think I'm with FB.

    1. Wize

      But many users have their email address visible... their friends. So you can look at their Facebook profile, find the email address. Copy and paste it into your email of choice (or manually enter it, not sure if it appears as text or as a bitmap of the text to stop copy and paste) and mail them that way.

      Bit of a ball-ache if you have a few friends you want to email something to.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Its like watching a couple of drunks outside a pub flailing wildly but not landing a punch

    "you spilt my pint"

    1. Gav
      Big Brother

      The difference is....

      The difference is, and this is very important, neither of them own a pint.

      It's *your* pint.

  6. JohnG

    Facebook : Our members details private, everyone else fair game

    ""Each person owns her friends list, but not her friends' information. A person has no more right to mass export all of her friends' private email addresses than she does to mass export all of her friends' private photo albums," he says."

    Oh really? I am not a Facebook user but every so often, I get emails from Facebook because one of my friends has given Facebook my private email address and Facebook are using it to punt their service. These emails are typically repeated several times before they give up. Applying their own statement above, Facebook should not be using the private email addresses of people who have not chosen to use their service, whether those emails have come from Google or anywhere else.

  7. Dave Fox

    Facebook is right, for once!

    I use Google services a lot - I'm an Apps for Domains customer, so all my email is effectively Gmail. I'm definitely keen on the whole Google experience!

    However, in order to email someone, I need to know their email address, so I consider this public information. However in Facebook, many of my "friends" are only friends on Facebook - I don't know their contact information outside of Facebook unless they've made it available.

    So, if I don't know this information, why should should Google be able to get to it?

    Perhaps I'm wrong, and this is not what they are looking for, but it certainly sounds like it.

    As an aside, I've never let Facebook or any other such service access to my mail contacts anyway! :)

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Totally agree, FB is right on this one. Google should not have the automatic right to see my FB friends contact details. They are my friends, not simply and entry in a contacts list to be harmonised across email systems.

      1. Oninoshiko


        google isn't asking for "the automatic right to see my FB friends contact details." They are asking FB to give YOU the right to take the YOUR friends list from FB and give it to google.

  8. Rams
    Big Brother

    No evil inside

    Bad move from google, again. Look's like it's not enough to spy on chrome users, geo-localize users, save eveysite google-accounts are looking for.

    Little zucky has some balls refusing to deal with them, he knows he has the power , from ad serving in US, launching reduction when going to Mc Donald with facebook switched on and so on.

    Anyway, google shouldn't be able to retrieve informations from facebook, it's another website. AC, do you really think that everything you do on the internet, from this forum, to all the creepy one you go should be related together and anyone being able to see it? Huhu

  9. Doc Spock

    Calm Down Dear

    "Each person owns her friends list, but not her friends' information. A person has no more right to mass export all of her friends' private email addresses than she does to mass export all of her friends' private photo albums"

    Ignoring the fact that photo albums, etc are not private if you make them available to others, this is an easy fix. Just add a privacy setting along the lines of "allow x to export y" (where x is a person/group/etc and y is e-mail/phone no/photos/all info/etc). In other words, let _the_user_ decide which of their friends get to do more than just view their data.

    Of course, one could argue that "friending" someone is implicitly providing said person with unlimited access to the data you make available to them on facebook (this still allows for segregation of friends based upon groups/etc).

    Personally, I go with this latter line of reasoning.

    Of course, I still find it funny that facebook thinks I believe that marking my videos "for friends only" stops other people for accessing them. The following video is marked as such:

    1. Tom 13

      Conceptually I like your fix.

      Not sure I trust FaceBook to implement it. Less sure I trust Google to abide by it.

      And completely irrelevant because neither of them are willing to consider it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ok, i'll bite..

      Who is the band in your video?

      1. Doc Spock


        The band is Orbital. The track is "Know Where to Run" (probably best known for being on the Wipeout3 soundtrack)

        1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: @theodore


  10. Colin Stratford

    @Doc Spock

    Well now you've published the URL, it is of course publicly accessible. But if I'm not much mistaken, only the owner of the video/picture/album can access that URL, and it is not predictable. So yes, if it is marked as 'Friends only' then non-friends will not be able to access it (unless you actively publish it using the URL).

    So the owner chooses to publish or not, independent of the privacy status. Which is fine by me - it is very useful for sharing albums with non facebook users. As I trust them, I am not concerned about the URL being further forwarded - a privacy risk that is fully transparent.

    1. Doc Spock

      Going Slightly Off-Topic

      "But if I'm not much mistaken, only the owner of the video/picture/album can access that URL"

      Did you try the URL? I can access it from any computer without being logged into facebook, therefore anyone should be able to view the video.

      The point I was trying to make is that many of facebook's privacy controls are only applicable when you are in facebook world (i.e., going through the site). Outside of facebook world, their privacy controls are meaningless.

      Ideally, the above URL should require you to log in (and be a friend of mine) before allowing access to the video. Of course, that wouldn't stop my friends from downloading the video, but that's not something which facebook (or anyone else for that matter) can prevent.

    2. Doc Spock


      I just realised that I mis-understood your post. The actual URL can only be obtained by me, a facebook friend, or someone with a packet-sniffer if the video is viewed on an unsecured network. And yes, there is typically no pattern to the URL.

      My privacy concern is more aligned to the packet-sniffer scenario - not too unlikely in this world of coffee shop free wi-fi.

      (Before I get really off-topic, I have similar concerns about other sites which only secure the log-in process - e.g., hotmail until quite recently)

      1. dssf

        In this coffeeshop era, better get Blacksheep

        I am not sure i'd touch firesheep, but i would/will/do use Blacksheep.

  11. Bilgepipe
    Gates Horns


    "Google said it's preventing data from moving between Gmail and Facebook because it believes data should be set free."

    This doesn't exactly conjure up images of little packets of personal information flitting from tree to tree. Both of these companies want to harvest all this data for their own money-making and nefarious purposes. They just don't like each other doing to their own data.

    Handbags at dawn. In the meantime, I'll keep my list of friends away from both of them.

  12. Martin 63

    FB vs Google. Is that title enough?

    People are lazy. Can they often be bothered to restict their FB photos? Ive seen many of me, and whilst ive had a FB account for years, Ive never sent a photo to it.

    I'ts really tricky for people working in the community/social area. Schools, for instance, monitor facebook and members of staff have been fired for appearance on facebook for a 'party' weekend snap posted by someone else.

    So we have a situation where somebody is fired for a picture posted by someone else. Probably a friend who was assuming no harm was done.

    Scarily enough, I dont see any resolution bar a lawsuit where friend sues friend.

    My point is- Im missing why, in any way, FB can take the moral high ground.


    See me on grumpy old me soon

  13. The Fuzzy Wotnot


    "data liberation engineering team"

    The only thing the pair of you understand is liberating data from users and flogging it to the highest bidder!

    Best one I've heard today!

  14. Drat


    About 2 weeks ago I got an email from facebook from a friend of mine, asking me to join facebook so I could see pictures on her page. It also said "here are some friends of yours also on facebook" and I wondered how the hell it knew they were friends. I figured out that their email addresses were in my gmail contacts list, but couldn't understand how facebook knew this.

    I am not a facebook user, and it appears that facebook took information from my gmail contact list without my knowledge. I am a bit spooked by this. In fact I am spooked that google is free and easy with my contacts list, and am thinking of moving away from gmail now. Am I wrong to be a little concerned?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ..those people marked as people you also know have also imported their address books into Facebook and as you were listed in there also, it's easy to make those recommendations.

  15. Paul 135
    Big Brother

    Facebook is EVIL

    Can we please have an evil Zuckerberg icon? As much as I don't trust Google, I don't think that this should distract from the evil attempts at lock-in from Facebook.

    Facebook users can choose which email addresses that their "friends" can see. Surely if I can copy and paste an email address of a "friend" then surely I should be able to mass export.

    This whole thing has b*gger all to do with privacy, especially given the fact that your email addresses are only shared with "friends" and that the Facebook ethos is to only "friend" people you actually know. What this is is an attempt by Facebook to attempt to keep you locked into the Facebook ecosystem by encouraging you to use the Facebook messaging system, instead of the superior and more open alternative that we've known for years as "email". The fact that you also can't reply to a "Facebook message" directly by email says it all (curiously Facebook has implemented a system that allows you to reply to a "Facebook comment" by email, but the more useful ability to use the same mechanism reply to a "Facebook message" by email just stinks of an attempt at lock-in).

    Facebook you STINK - the sooner a more open social network comes along and knocks you off your pedestal the better.

  16. William 6

    photos != contact details

    photos are not the same as contact information - a very poor comparison from FB.

    If a freind on face book has allowed their contact details be shared with you (ie shown on their fb page) then it is fair game for you to take a copy of those contact details? Yes in my opinion.

    In which case what is the difference between copying data you are allowed to and copying lots of data you are allowed? none, except FB will not allow the second option as a feature. Why? Lockin.

  17. L1feless

    Adding a privacy setting

    I have deleted my FB account 6-7 months ago as I just simply didn't like the direction the organization was going in. Moving past that so long as privacy settings on Facebook allow me to control who (from my friends list) has access to what personal data then I see no need to prevent a mass export function. this would include E-mail, First and last name as well as mapping the personal information in the profile to parse into say the notes field. If my friends are allowing me to view their profile data anyways I can always do what I was forced to do when I closed my FB account and that was to manually copy of all that data from FB to Gmail.

    Paul 135 I would like to take you comment and slightly alter it with regards to a FB alternative. I too welcome a FB alternative. Unlike you I am OK if it is not Open Source. I just want a similar service to that of my Gmail. If I want to use GMail I can if not I can use a different email client, Nowhere along the line there am I being told I cannot move my own data from one place to the next.

  18. Matt Hawkins

    Go Google!

    Facebook offers me nothing I currently use Google for.

    I'm particularly interested in seeing Facebook's mobile phone application development tools or their email system. Also we be interested in their global mapping system, cloud document system and their web search facilities.

    Of course Facebook could just STFU and stick to what it does best. Hosting a whole pile of text-speak-boring-junk.

    I would never in a million years want to give Facebook my contacts list. Without warning Facebook would remove my privacy settings and then let everyone have access to it.

    Google isn't perfect but it's stuff is actually useful.

  19. Matt Hawkins

    FB are wrong. Plain and simple.

    @Bugs R Us, Google doesn't want AUTOMATIC access to your FB data. It just wants a mechanism by which, you the user, could import FB data into Google land. This is exactly what FB expects from Google.

    FB expects to get your Google data with your permission. It doesn't however want the data to go in the other direction.

    So FB are talking rubbish. Why should Google provide an API that FB can suck data out of Google when FB refuses to do the same?

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Putting Faces to Cowboys

    Yeehaw! Watch me code up a million-user site! Yeehaw! Watch me use PHP! Yeehaw! Watch me create a non-functional chat application using Erland! Yeehaw! Whip-crack! Watch me implement non-functional security! Yeehaw!

  21. dssf

    Part of my feelings

    ‎""Email is different from social networking because in an email application, each person maintains and owns their own address book, whereas in a social network your friends maintain their information and you just maintain a list of friends.... Because of this, we think it makes sense for email applications to export email addresses and for social networks to export friend lists.""

    INT WTF you FOOL! If a person establishes contact with another person, voluntarily, then said persons have A RIGHT to know with whom each is communicating, you dick. That means fb users DO have the right to en-mass defect. Got it? No, you don't. Or, you do, but you're protecting your nearly vapor-ware, dubious business model. Wake up!

    INT WTF? This dumba$$ actually works at fb and claims to understand the "product"?

    We do MORE than just "maintain a freind list", dip*$#*. We comment to each other publicly and privately. We may someday need to defend our words or challenge what another claims we said or failed to say, you nitwit. If a user has to go to court, and you prevent said persons from en-mass exporting files, you're forcing them to constantly make copies of every message. Sure, we can search, but we may need to do more.



    1. cosmogoblin


      Wow. Good point, in the absolute need to be able to sue somebody and prove they called you a dip*$#*, you MUST record everything you ever say!

      You realise that's what did Nixon in, right?

      Speaking of things that happened decades ago, some of used to use an organic form of communication called "talking". No matter how much we complained to the Creator, He never implemented a permament searchable indexed record of everything we said.

      It still turned out to be quite popular, mind you.

  22. Tatsky

    Well I like Facebook....

    ...I like Google also

    which is better?

    There's only one way to find out.


  23. Anonymous Coward

    facebook is for kiddies, surely

    no sensible, rational adult uses this privacy invading toy?

  24. thejynxed

    Oh really...



    ^- Wrong. You agreed to a EULA specifying that Facebook can do whatever they like with your data within the confines of the EULA and applicable local law.

  25. Beaver6813

    You're missing the point?

    The reason why they've done this is in preperation for "Facebook Email" which everyone is rumouring about, Google is feeling threatened by this (as it could conflict with Gmail) and so they are trying to even it up as much as possible which I think is fair enough. If Facebook create an email system then why should Gmail let users flock to that but Facebook trap users in?

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