It seems that now that since Facebook has passed 500,000,000 users and topped Google as the #1 website in the world, much of the world has begun to turn against Facebook, which is a shame as it seems that data portability has finally started to get some attention but what has just happened seems almost backward. In the last day or so it seems that Google has taken the radical step to turn off Gmail data APIs to Facebook so your contacts can no longer be automatically handed over to non-Google platforms and services like Facebook.
It will be interesting to see if this will be expanded to cover other social media platforms like Linkedin, Twitter or FourSquare as they also do technically leave the users data in a dead zone which Google cannot use in its data mining. Wired.com seems to question some of the commercial motives behind the decision as well as the company that blogs like TechCrunch appear to have shown support for in the early moves of what looks to be a drawn out argument. As new Gmail contact policy will be rolled out of the next few weeks get in early and make sure you share all your personal and private Gmail contacts with every and any service you may ever have plans to use before their Gmail data feed is also turned off.
Ok so the last point is meant to be taken with a grain of salt as you should take some note of the concerns Google has about the use of data but always place your privacy first and don’t automatically share access with just any website that requests access to your Gmail contacts.
The announcement around the Gmail API blockade does place a question over any other social media platforms that you currently use that rely on the Gmail API to import your Gmail contacts to quickly find friends, family or workmates that are also using the platform. Google does make it sound like if the platform allows for data to be imported and exported then it should satisfy Gmail but this policy may also change as Google begins to see the commercial value of your Gmail contacts in its upcoming Google Me strategies.
Google tells you what to do
The biggest issue that seems to be missed by the initial media coverage is that Google is making the decision on how it’s Gmail users can elect to make use of their data they imported or entered into their contacts lists. It should be each Gmail users own decision if you want to share it, export it or delete it. The move does not set a good precedent on how Google views your Gmail contacts as it seems that they have seen a commercial benefit and have staked a claim on ownership and rights around who and how they can be accessed. The use of your data if it is in Gmail or Facebook should be your decision and users should not be involved in their parents public fight of social data. So Google and Facebook seem to be setting the ground work for what looks to be a nasty breakup fight in front of the kids and i’m sure it will just get worse and only the users will get hurt in the data protectionism battle ahead.
Issue places doubt in Google’s commitment to OAuth?
While the Gmail API has been extended to support authorisation via OAuth which is the industries open standard protocol which allows Gmail to have secure API authorisation between desktop and web applications steps like this place doubt in its commitment to OAuth and it’s development community if they are going to take their bat and ball and go home so quickly. As Michael Arrington points out maybe this is the beginning of a data war between the world’s biggest websites and will open platforms like OAuth slow their arms race?
There is no Google Places API!
Just as Google has been making noise over the issue of Facebook being a one-way user of its Gmail API, one of the long-standing issues has been the level of data accumulating in Google Places. Much of the Google Places data has been acquired by Google bots scraping it from across the web, via business owners entering information or from trusted data partners such as YellowPages. The issue is that initially when your Local listing is created the data was imported from YellowPages and then you can then make adjustments or updates as required, the issue is that this data is a one way road. If you correct an error in the YellowPages data it is not imported back to the YellowPages database so why is this issue not being raised as double standards around data access?
It’s easy to find a number of previous issues that have arisen when Google Places have removed data it initially displayed that scraped from platforms such as Yelp, so why the big issue around Facebook being a one-way street when Google Places is just as bad if not worse. Think about if Facebook decided that after you imported your contacts it no longer wanted you to speak to your friends who didn’t have a Optus mobile due to a commercial relationship it might have with Telstra and removed them from your Facebook contacts. There would be a massive outcry but effectively Google Places has done this in the past by hiding data it selected to import from platforms like Yelp as it appears to compete with Google’s commercial agreements with local data partners like Zagat. Again it appears that the choice has been taken out of the users hands due to a commercial benefit and if all is fair and transparent as claimed by Google the decision should be with the business owner if they select to import or display Yelp’s content and not with Google Places algorithm or commercial agreements.
Is all fair in love and data wars?
Just as there is no Google Places API and this is a one way relationship is it really fair to call out Facebook over its own selfish aspirations to be the centre of your social universe if Google Places is also a dead-end street?