Facebook, apparently, owns my birthday. Yours too.
At least that’s one way to interpret why blogger Robert Scoble got kicked off Facebook. While testing an upcoming version of Plaxo Pulse, Scoble scraped information on his contacts (name, address, and birthday, so he could move them to Outlook, he says), which turns out to violate Facebook’s terms of service.
Self-promotion is certainly an aspect of this made-for-the-blogosphere event. It’s not like getting kicked off Facebook has prevented Scoble from broadcasting his every micromove. (And it’s not like scraping isn’t something social networks have to monitor. There are Black Hat scrapers, too. See Dare Obasanjo for more on this angle.) But there are serious issues here deeper than Scoble’s behavior. We are strong believers in projects that open up the social graph, we’ve expressed disappointment when early attempts to do so have delivered less than promised, and we’ve noted when social networks run amuck with our data. Facebook is locking in its customers. Mark Zuckerberg may be young, but he’s not too young to remember how AOL fared with a similar lock-in strategy when the open web challenged it.
The question is simple: Is it your data — or is it Facebook’s? Facebook has given its opinion. What do you think — and what are you going to do about it?