Scoblegate: Scoble responds

Scoble published a response to the criticism about his collaboration with Plaxo to test a script that harvests a Facebook user’s friends’ details for import into Plaxo. As I mentioned in my last post, there have been some pretty strong criticisms of Scoble and Plaxo. I was certainly concerned about the way Plaxo went about testing the script and felt Plaxo could have handled this differently. In response to questions why he did what he did, Scoble had the following to say:

Why do it? Well, I wanted to push Facebook’s buttons. I think it’s sad that they import email addresses and other data from Gmail and track my Blockbuster usage and use my adding my name to the Saturn page but they aren’t willing to share some of its data back out with these systems.

So, to Judi, why is it OK for Facebook to import all my Gmail email addresses? Why aren’t you screaming bloody murder about THAT? After all, did anyone on Gmail approve me to import their email addresses to Facebook?

I don’t think that pushing buttons is necessarily the best reason to do what he did (although given Facebook’s recent stunts with personal information, it is a good one) but he does make a good point about the email account imports. If you are going to take a hard line on being added to a friends list with your consent then tools like webmail and address book imports should be removed too.

Is Plaxo a social monster for trying to import? That’s for you to decide, but why weren’t you all up in arms when Facebook imported your data and your friends email addresses from Gmail?

There is such a furore about who gave permission to be added as a friend to which service and, quite frankly, I don’t think this is exactly the biggest issue on the Net at the moment. I have argued that people who are active on the Web today have less of a legitimate expectation of privacy than people who never ventured onto the Web. If you allow yourself to be added as a friend on one service then it is disingenuous to take issue if the person you were happy to be connected to, tries to connect to you on another service. You can refuse to be added as a friend on those other services.

Being active on the Social Web is a slippery slope. If you don’t want to be friended on the Social Web then decline the invitations you receive to connect. I know that Plaxo Pulse certainly gives you the option to connect to someone who wants to friend you. Facebook does that too. So what you have here is someone asking to add you to their friends list on a service you may not use or prefer to use. You can follow a link and refuse the request and not be added as a friend to that person’s profile. It is pretty easy and effective.

If your concern is that Plaxo now has your information due to an attempt to connect to you then you need to bear in mind that if you are on the Web there are likely many other services who could be harvesting your information and profiling you and which are not going to tell you and which will abuse your information. If you are concerned about your information being in Plaxo’s hands (or any other service for that matter) then why not review that service’s privacy policy and request that your information be removed from their servers.

I also think this whole thing should be given some context and the many people who have made such a fuss about Scoble and Plaxo (I have tremendous respect for both Scoble and the Plaxo team in spite of this storm in a teacup) should perhaps get a little perspective. There are bigger issues in the world today than Scoble and Plaxo teaming up to find ways to open Facebook up. Anyone hear about a country in Africa called Kenya which is tearing itself apart? People are dying in Kenya in an horrifically violent response to possible election fraud. Where are the indignant blog posts about Kenya or any number of other significant crises in the world today?

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