Scobleized : Why Facebook will never give your data back
Blogger/Internet socialite Robert Scoble has a problem. In attempting to scrape his personal data from Facebook (where he *had* several thousand "friends") he angered some of Facebook's internal monitoring drones and was forcefully removed from the service. True enough, what he was doing clearly violates Facebook's terms of service which state, "Thou shall not use automated means to scrape thine own data" but, should Facebook be allowed to collect the dossier you create through using the service, and then forbid you from getting a copy?
What's really at issue here is, who owns all this crazy social data you're constantly creating? Here's a tip; it's not you. All those clickwrap agreements -- or EULAs, also known as the Terms of Service document you never read -- say that Facebook can pretty much do whatever it wants with whatever data it manages to extort extract from you.
Still happy about the amount of time you spend on the most popular social networking site in the world? Or, rather, are you getting that icky, spine crawling feeling you get when you meet someone who knows just a little too much about you?
Facebook won't join Open Social, and you can forget about the pipe dreams of the Data Portability movement. The simple fact is, as the market leader, there is no benefit for or strategic advantage in Facebook making your data available to you in any format you wish. Those are young company ideals; the things you do in the beginning when you're desperate for users.
Open access to data is like the starched shirt, expensive cologne and bouquet of roses you take on a first date; it's a courting display, not a permanent way of life.
Facebook won't offer you open access to your data for one simple reason; if they did, they couldn't compete. They aren't innovative, they aren't the first mover, and they don't have a stable of hot talent designing any "next generation" of the social web. Facebook is simply a company that was in the right place at the right time, with a lucky strategy which happened to work. Zuckerberg may be bright, but he isn't a visionary; he's a follower.
So, whatever side of the debate you find yourself falling on, remember this. If the data wars truly have begun, victory won't come in the form of an "open" Facebook; it will come from a new generation of services who fail to find an exit strategy from their own courting ritual.
Update: Facebook has reactivated Scoble's account, after he promised never to run a script like Plaxo's Pulse again. We're left to wonder if the account would have been re-enabled if he weren't Robert Scoble, or if this story wasn't the number one thing on Techmeme today.