Google Blocks Facebook Contact Imports On Android

Google's latest updates to the Android mobile phone platform block Facebook contact imports.

Google’s latest updates to the Android mobile phone platform block Facebook contact imports.

Today’s so-called Gingerbread updates to the Nexus S version of Android eliminate the option to merge contacts from Facebook within the address book of the smartphone software, according to TechCrunch. This continues something Gmail users have already noticed when attempting to migrate contacts onto the social network: the block comes from Google’s side of things, not Facebook’s.

Without the latest Gingerbread updates installed, a first-time launch of the Facebook application on Android asks the user whether to synchronize contact information from the social network with data in the cell phone’s address book. Install the latest Gingerbread patch in the Nexus S and contact data from Facebook doesn’t show up within the phone’s address book, but can only be seen if the mobile user logs on to Facebook.

Apparently, no such change shows up in the Gingerbread patch for the Nexus One phone. However, Google has hinted that future Android releases will block the synchronization of contacts from Facebook. Like the search engine company’s prepared statement sent to TechCrunch reads:

We believe it is very important that users are able to control their data. So in the over-the-air update for Nexus S, we have a small change to how Facebook contacts appear on the device. For Nexus S users who downloaded the Facebook app from Android Market, Facebook contacts will no longer appear to be integrated with the Android Contacts app. Since Facebook contacts cannot be exported from the device, the appearance of integration created a false sense of data portability. Facebook contact data will continue to appear within the Facebook app. Like all developers on Android, Facebook is free to use the Android contacts API to truly integrate contacts on the device, which would allow users to have more control over their data. We are removing the special-case handling of Facebook contacts on Nexus S and future lead devices. We continue to believe that reciprocity (the expectation that if information can be imported into a service it should be able to be exported) is an important step toward creating a world of true data liberation – and encourage other websites and app developers to allow users to export their contacts as well.

At this point, blocking Facebook contact synchronization on mobile devices seems like a minor nuisance, since not everyone shares their phone numbers with friends on the social network. However, as the membership on the site continues to grow beyond 600 million and telephony applications like Skype become fully integrated, blocking synchronization of contacts could be Google’s loss, rather than a real blow to Facebook.

Does the ability to merge contacts from Facebook influence whether or not you upgrade to the latest version of Android?