Google Promotes Data Portability by Adding Restrictions to the Contacts API

Written on:November 9, 2010
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Google found a strange way to show to the world that Facebook is a walled garden that traps your data: by blocking Facebook’s access to the Google Contacts API. A Google spokesperson said that “users often aren’t aware that once they have imported their contacts into sites like Facebook they are effectively trapped. We hope that reciprocity will be an important step towards creating a world of true data liberation—and that this move will encourage other websites to allow users to automate the export of their contacts as well.”

Facebook users can still export their Gmail contacts and manually upload the file to Facebook, but Google Contacts API made this much easier. Facebook even found a direct URL that lets you export your contacts, so you don’t have to visit Gmail.

Google may have good intentions, but that’s a terrible way to treat users. After all, it’s their data and it should be their choice to use services like Facebook.

To show that Facebook is not the only target, Google Contacts API includes some new terms of use: “Google supports data portability. 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, subject to applicable laws.”

That’s like trying to make the web faster by asking developers that use the Google Analytics tracking code to make their sites as fast as Google Analytics.

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