Facebook Shuts Down Open-Xchange Social Network Migration Tool

Facebook deactivates Open-Xchange's tool that enabled users to migrate their Facebook friends network to other locations.

Facebook has struck back at open-source email and collaboration systems provider Open-Xchange for developing a tool that enables users to copy their Facebook friends network and move it to other sites.

On Sunday, July 10, 2011, Facebook deactivated a tool created by Open-Xchange that enabled Facebook users to control their personal data and export and use it in any way they choose, Open-Xchange said in a press release.

Made available for free at http://ox.io, the tool uses approved Facebook APIs and is not in violation of any terms and conditions, as interpreted by the management of Open-Xchange, officials at the company said.

"If you want to see what a future looks like where a single company controls your personal data for its own profit, this is a glimpse," said Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange, in a statement. "Clearly, Facebook management does not want you to have the ability to take your personal information outside their walls to, say, Google+ and will do everything in their power to stop you, including violating their own terms and conditions."

According to an email, Open-Xchange officials said they received from Facebook:

""We're writing to inform you that your app Connector for ox.io has been disabled for the following violations:"You cannot use a user's friend list outside of your application, even if a user consents to such use, but you can use connections between users who have both connected to your application. (FPP II.11)"Our expectation is that developers do not provide users with poor experiences, such as those resulting from inappropriate or misleading content, privacy and security vulnerabilities, and general spam in the Stream, Requests, and elsewhere. We appreciate your commitment to improving the application ecosystem on Platform.""

However, "Facebook, G+ and all the others have one thing in common: The data is outside the firewall of any company-no legal control, no control over what gets shared," Laguna told eWEEK. "When the -Hotel California' model doesn't work for business, sometimes you need to be able to -check out' your data."

In addition, in a statement, Laguna also said: "From a technical standpoint, Facebook's claim of violation of terms is preposterous. All we are doing is using the Facebook API to extract the last name and first name fields. We are not parsing or scraping the email address. That same data is available on Facebook under Account->Account Settings->Download Your Information in the resulting friends.html file. This is not about user experience. It is about Facebook not wanting anyone to control their personal information-except Facebook."

Open-Xchange is an open-source-based email server and collaboration platform that is used by tens of millions of customers worldwide, the company said.

Social OX was created by Open-Xchange to help people control their own data that they use on social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Anyone wishing to export their data creates a Social OX account at http://ox.io. All data input and stored in this account is an individual's private data, the company said. Social OX is not a public cloud service that scans user data. It's a free demo, according to Open-Xchange.

Social OX then employs the approved APIs from the social and business networks to create address books for each of them, Open-Xchange officials said. This data is then enhanced with the contacts from the user's email accounts that are already part of their Open-Xchange account. This data from all networks and address books and all contacts from emails is then merged into a central address book.

Open-Xchange has been challenging the Facebook way in posts on its blog. In a post from May, Juergen Geck, CTO of Open-Xchange, said:

""Social networks are not social. Facebook makes a living out of selling access to customers. From a Facebook perspective this means that user data must not migrate elsewhere. This means, no access for Google, and definitely little to no control by the user. If Facebook did allow user data to flow freely to other service providers, their role as a gatekeeper could not be profitable; no data flowing out of Facebook means no social interaction with independent services (vs. e.g. Zynga being a Facebook only service)."The next big thing after MySpace and Facebook will be true social networking based on conventions and data standards, with data gluing together remote services that meet the unmet needs of customers, i.e. the rightful owners of their own data.""

And on July 7, Laguna wrote: "The Cloud needs to be open-just as source code and data protocols needed to be open to create the Internet. With more and more data moving into and being created inside the cloud, this data needs to be owned by the creators, not the services."

Laguna also said in that July 7 post:

""There are always courageous people like Mohamed Mansour from Ottawa, who implemented a quick hack for Google Chrome to export your Friends from the Facebook site and plug them into your GMail Address book, from where you can re-use them inside G+ to define your -Circles.' It worked a few hours until Facebook shut it down. Dumb move if you ask me."At Open-Xchange, we have developed a little extension to our Social OX feature to provide just that, copying of your networks to and fro, only using the official APIs.""