There has been no lack of commentary [ Mulley | Alexia | Nick | Dare ] on Robert Scoble’s use of an unreleased data scraper tool to mine his friends’ personal information from Facebook, and his subsequent explusion from Oz. According to Dave Winer, Robert claims that response has been about 70% in his favor, and 30% siding with Facebook’s response to his actions.
My knee-jerk reaction was to side with Robert as I have been acquainted with him since his days at Userland Software and followed him closely through his various ventures since then. I truly believe that he intends no evil. However, remove Scoble from the equation and ask yourself, “Do I want all of my ‘friends’ to have access to this information.” Well, I don’t think there is anything on my Facebook account that people won’t find in dozens of places across the Internet, but that doesn’t mean that at some point there won’t be.
I’m not the friend magnet that Robert is, and my Facebook friends are largely people I’ve known long enough that I don’t mind them having my email address and birthday. Not everyone will feel this way, so perhaps Scoble is doing us and Facebook a big favor by shining a light on the inherent privacy issues of Facebook and other social networking sites of that ilk. As sites like Facebook encompass more and more of our online and real lives, and begin to fill up with more of our personal data, likes, dislikes and tendencies, it will become more important to have finer control over who we share that data with.
Update: Facebook reactivates Scoble’s account after he agrees not to run the scraper script on his account again.