Drawing the Privacy Line

Greg is bothered by Plaxo scraping your friends’ email addresses from Facebook. But I think he’s less bothered about the automated downloading of them from Gmail and other services. Paul Buchheit points out that the latter is just as much a violation of Gmail’s TOS as the former is of Facebook’s.

Why is doing it the hard way more of a violation of privacy than doing it the easy way? Just because Gmail has an API for it and Facebook tries to hoard the data for itself, is there a difference?

The way I see it, if your friends are making their email addresses available to you through Facebook, then trying to put those email addresses into a place where they are easier to use isn’t a violation of privacy. It would be a violation of privacy if Plaxo made your friends’ email addresses available to anyone else, of course.

Am I missing something?


  1. Yes.

    I may trust Facebook developers to never fuck up and to never share my drunken new years photos with anyone. However, I may not extend the same level of trust to Plaxo’s team.

    So, even if there were no TOS issues, it is not just about sharing with the same set of friends. It is about sharing with those friends and the platform.

Comments are closed.