Facebook Defies Google's Terms, Continues To Let Users Import Contacts

Yesterday Google stepped up efforts to fend off Facebook’s increasing growth by restricting the company from importing Facebook users’ Google contacts without providing a reciprocal service. Despite a change to the company’s Contacts API terms of use, Facebook is continuing to allow users to import their Google Contacts.

In a statement to MSNBC, Google stated, “Many other sites allow users to import and export their information, including contacts, quickly and easily. But sites that do not, such as Facebook, leave users in a data dead end.” Google also stated, “we will no longer allow websites to automate the import of users’ Google Contacts (via our API) unless they allow similar export to other sites.”

Last night Techcrunch revealed the relevant part of the Google’s Contacts API terms of service which states:

5.8. Google supports data portability. By accessing Content through the Contacts Data API or Portable Contacts API for use in your service or application, you are agreeing to enable your users to export their contacts data to other services or applications of their choice in a way that’s substantially as fast and easy as exporting such data from Google Contacts, subject to applicable laws.

As of today Facebook is still running their contact importer despite the new move by Google and we’re not quite sure how long that will continue to run. My guess is that Google will have to manually block Facebook if they want them to stop importing contacts. Interestingly enough Google is supposed to unleash their “Facebook killer” in the near future, which makes this terms change interesting timing. While Facebook does enable users to download their Facebook data, they don’t have a tool for exporting contact information.

Ultimately it’s not quite clear how big of an impact this will have on Facebook as the company is nearing 600 million users. More curious is why Google waited so long to set this requirement, a point that Matthew Ingram articulated this morning. For the time being this is simple a terms of service change, however we’ll have to see how this affects the import service over the coming days.