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July 12, 2011

Running Scared? Facebook Blocks New Tool for Exporting Data to Google+

By Beecher Tuttle, TMCnet Contributor

A new tool that allows users to export contact data from Facebook (News - Alert) and import it to other Web clients has been blocked by the social networking giant. The move comes on the heels of the launch of Google's (News - Alert) new rival site, Google+, which is expected to garner its 10 millionth user at some point today.

Facebook told software company Open-Xchange that it disabled the tool because it was in violation with the site's terms and conditions. The social network told CNET that its decision to block the app was based on its pledge to protect user privacy.

Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna was incredulous with the decision, stating that the tool in no way violates any of Facebook's terms. From all indications, Laguna may be correct.

The tool does not scrape email addresses from Facebook or other sites. It simply extracts first and last names from business and social networking websites and then consolidates them with the corresponding addresses from a user's email account. This comprehensive address book can then be imported to other services, such as Google+.

Rather than trying to convince Facebook to reconsider, Laguna went on the offensive, calling the company's claims “preposterous.”

“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,” Laguna noted in a statement.

“This is not about user experience,” he added. “It is about Facebook NOT wanting anyone to control their personal information - except Facebook.”

Laguna said that the same data that Open-Xchange extracts from Facebook is available in a user's account settings file. He asked his user base to “stay tuned – this story is not over with by a long shot.”

This is not the first time that Facebook has taken steps to lock user data within its own walls. Just last week, the company blocked Facebook Friend Exporter, a tool developed by Mohamed Mansour that can enable users to export names, email addresses and other information from Facebook.

The arrival of Google+ puts Facebook in the unfamiliar position of competing with a rival service that can match its brand recognition and technological prowess. Just yesterday, Idealab founder Bill Gross speculated that Google+ will reach 100,000,000 users faster than any other service in history.

TMC CEO Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) recently called Google+ a “serious threat” and a “real challenger” to Facebook.

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Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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