Social network aggregator Power.com, which Facebook sued in January for the way it accessed and stored Facebook user data, has counter-sued Facebook for “anticompetitive practices” in US Federal District Court in Northern California.
At the heart of the matter is whether Power.com should be allowed to store Facebook users’ credentials and “scrape” their Facebook data without using authorized Facebook APIs and programs like Facebook Connect. Facebook says doing so violates the Facebook Terms of Service and threatens user privacy and security, and sued Power.com in January after it refused to change its site after several weeks of direct discussions with Facebook.
In its response and countersuit today, Power.com is essentially claiming that the court should force Facebook to allow Power.com to scrape and store user data because 1) doing so is “common industry practice” (citing Facebook’s own contact importer), 2) Facebook’s own terms of service say Facebook doesn’t own user data, and 3) Facebook’s behavior in not allowing it to do so is “anticompetitive.”
Facebook’s original lawsuit also claimed that Power.com also falsely signed emails it sent as “The Facebook Team” from “facebookmail.com” during a promotion in which it was offering $100 to the person that invited the most new users to Power.com, but Power.com does not appear to be countersuing against that claim.
According to web metrics firm Compete.com, US traffic to Power.com has decreased to 14K uniques in June after its peak in December at 100K uniques. 91.7 million people visited Facebook.com in June.
We think the courts will side with Facebook in this case – even though Facebook is aggressively fighting attempts to access Facebook user data that don’t fall within Facebook’s authorized APIs, it’s premature to apply antitrust laws to Facebook today. Nevertheless, we’ll continue following the case, as it will set an important precedent for similar cases dealing with access rights to sensitive user data in the future.
Update: Facebook has issued the following statement about the suit:
Facebook is committed to its mission of providing people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. We have made numerous attempts to work with Power.com but, after making commitments to comply with our policies, they continued to put Facebook user data at risk. We filed the lawsuit against Power.com only after it refused to follow the rules that we have established to protect the privacy and security of our users’ data. Users rely on us to protect their data and enforce the privacy decisions they make on Facebook. We take this trust seriously and work aggressively to protect it.
We created Facebook Connect, a set of open self-service developer tools, to permit the sharing of user information in a controlled manner and that enforces the privacy decisions users make on Facebook. Facebook Connect has been very successful with more than 10,000 websites using Connect and our other APIs to build rich and robust experiences for their users, including the functionalities that Power.com has now alleged that we are trying to prevent. We continue to build more tools for developers to make Facebook even more open. The open streams API launched in April is a significant example.
The claims asserted by Power.com in its countersuit are without merit and we will fight them aggressively.