Facebook has been investing in tools to detect and block automated systems and scripts created by spammers heavily in recent years. When it comes to user email addresses on Facebook profiles, Facebook for years has taken the extra step of listing user emails in an image format in order to make it harder for scripts to scrape massive numbers of email addressess. However, it has recently switched to providing them in plain text. Why?
A Facebook spokesperson told us today:
Showing email addresses in plain text makes it easier for people to use the information to connect with their friends. We’ve improved our tools for detecting and preventing profile scraping over the last few years such that this additional precaution is no longer necessary.
For the average user, the change’s impact is only that they can now copy and paste email addresses from Facebook profiles.
OCR, or optical character recognition, has become a more widely understood technology in recent years. Formatting text within an image, as Facebook has done, does not necessarily provide meaningfully greater security. In fact, some companies have used such tools to scrape email addresses from within Facebook (that didn’t work out for other reasons).
Facebook is also trying to make email sharing easier in other ways, like allowing users to provide emails or email aliases to developers on the platform.