Does Facebook own your friends?

If you’re like me, you’ve got a lot of Facebook friends. But whose friends are they, really? Your answer may differ from Facebook’s.

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With the introduction of Google+ last week, the search/ad giant is finally in direct competition with Facebook. Or it will be, once Google gets over the opening week willies and reopens the service to allow the teeming hordes inside.

The biggest barrier to Google+’s success? All the time and effort we’ve already put into building our Facebook posses. Personally I am too old and cranky to start over from scratch. I just want to be able to click a button and automatically add everyone from Facebook to Google+.

That is, of course, exactly what Facebook does not want you to do, as an open source developer named Mohamed Mansour just discovered.

[See also: MySpace is now their space – and so is all your MySpace data ]

Late last year, Mansour created a Chrome extension called Facebook Friend Exporter. It was delightfully simple. Install the extension, navigate to your Facebook friends page, and it would export their contact information into a file you could use to import into some other program like, say, Google+.

Of course, Mansour did not develop his software with something like Google+ in mind. He developed it because he thought the data your friends shared with you belongs to you, not Facebook. But the popularity of FFE spiked after Google+ appeared, prompting Facebook to thwart FFE by automatically blocking access to your friends’ email addresses. Mansour is now an unofficial enemy of the Zuckerberg State.

Mansour published a workaround using Facebook’s mobile site, which operates under slightly different rules than its main site. Facebook blocked that too.

As Mansour noted (on his Google+ page, naturally):

This is what happens when your extension becomes famous :sigh: Facebook just removed the emails from their mobile site. They implemented a throttling mechanism that if you visit your ~5 friends in a short period of time, it will remove the email field.

No worries, a new version is on the making ... I am bloody annoyed now, because this proves Facebook owns every users data on Facebook. You don't own anything! If I were you, I would riot this to the media outlets again.

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