Facebook Welcomes Back Scoble

The blogger rejoins Facebook after the use of an import feature from Plaxo gets him banned as a security threat.

Relax, and take a deep breath: Scoble is back on Facebook.

Facebook on Jan. 3 reinstated Robert Scobles membership one day after banishing the high-tech blogger for testing a Plaxo tool that imports contact information from Facebook to the Plaxo Pulse service.

Facebooks servers detected the automated script, which a representative told Scoble resembled the same type of script used to commit malicious attacks and send spam and shut the account down earlier Jan. 2.

Scoble promptly blogged about how he was cut off from his 5,000 Facebook friends, triggering an outcry from supporters in the blogosphere that is renewing the debate about who has the right to control data on a social network—its users or the network.

Facebook has very clear rules that the data on its network is under its purview; users would like to export their data to other social sites so they dont have to re-enter data on multiple social networks. When Facebook banned Scoble, it provided a reason for users who want to control their data to reignite the fire.

It apparently started innocently enough.


Plaxo Pulses with Outlook. Click here to read more.

John McCrea, vice president of marketing for Plaxo, told eWEEK that the feature, which fished for common names, e-mail addresses and birthdays between Facebook and Plaxo members, was meant to be an uncontroversial addition to the Pulse service.

Pulse allows users to move contact information from Google Gmail, LinkedIn, Microsoft Hotmail and other services to Plaxo. The idea is to have one address book to use everywhere, which goes to the heart of the data-portability issue.

Scoble, who said he would not use data gleaned from the Plaxo script, was one of a dozen of alpha testers playing with the tool under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to provide feedback for Plaxo, which hoped to roll out the tool later this month.

Though Scobles temporary banishment seems to be a security precaution, Plaxo didnt reach out to Facebook about the import tool.

One of the reasons for this is that, from past conversations with Facebook officials, Plaxo has sensed a tension in Facebook between those who support the notion of sharing data and those who support the corporate policy for keeping data within the walled garden, McCrea said.

Plaxo will keep trying, aiming for a two-way exchange of data, from Facebook to Plaxo and vice-versa.

"What we really want is to have APIs that can allow us to do this right," McCrea said. "We like to work with companies like Yahoo, Google and Microsoft on possible technical implementations for data portability and wed love to do that with Facebook as well, but our previous discussions with them have hit a dead end."


Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.