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Google Cuts Facebook Off from Contact Data

facebook import from googleGoogle just made a small, but significant tweak to the terms of service for its Contacts API. The altered section now reads:
By accessing Content through the Contacts Data API or Portable Contacts API for use in your service or application, you are agreeing to enable your users to export their contacts data to other services or applications of their choice in a way that's substantially as fast and easy as exporting such data from Google Contacts...
In simple terms this means that any service that accesses Google Contacts must reciprocate, and allow Google to access its contact data. This is being largely interpreted as a challenge to Facebook, which allows users to scan their Google Contacts for people who also have Facebook accounts. This makes getting started on the social network easier, but Facebook does not offer similar access to Google for importing Facebook friends and contact info into Gmail, Buzz or Google Talk. In fact, Facebook has actively thwarted other services that attempt to crawl friend lists. For example, Twitter once offered the ability to find your Facebook friends on Twitter, but Zuckerberg and crew decided to block the microblogging service from importing contact info.

Google is putting its foot down over data portability, and, while it's not a completely selfless move (since Google would have a lot to gain from accessing your Facebook data), the end result is a net-positive for users and other Web-based services, too. Facebook has struck deals with Hotmail and Yahoo! to allow those services to pull in contact data, so it's clear that there are no major technical obstacles to providing two-way contact access. Some will paint the move as a step back from Google's proclaimed principle of openness, and that wouldn't be completely misguided. But the search giant is banking on the fact that Facebook -- in an effort to keep its users happy and to avoid getting caught up in a backlash -- will quickly comply with the new TOS. We're seeing mixed reports as to whether or not Google has already cut off Facebook, but, for the time being, don't assume you'll be able to automatically find your Google contacts on Facebook.

Make no mistake. Google is not taking a principled stand. This is about leveling the playing field, and fending off any threats that Facebook may make to its dominance.

Tags: contacts, data portability, DataPortability, facebook, google, social networking, SocialNetworking, top, web