Google Responds to Facebook's Exit from Friend Connect

Yesterday afternoon Facebook announced that they would be leaving Facebook Friend Connect due to privacy issues. Ultimately the post sounded as though Facebook was concerned about users putting their personal data at risk. Well, Google has sent us a statement in light of Facebook’s decision:

We’re disappointed that Facebook disabled their users’ ability to use Friend Connect with their Facebook friends. We want to help you understand a bit more about what’s going on on the Friend Connect side with respect to users’ information.

User privacy is of the utmost importance, and Friend Connect was designed to strongly preserve it. The larger issue here is users’ control of their data. People find the relationships they’ve built on social networks really valuable, and they want the option of bringing those friends with them elsewhere on the web. Google Friend Connect is designed to keep users fully in control of their information at all times. Users choose what social networks to link their Friend Connect account to. (They can just as easily unlink it.) We never handle passwords from other sites, we never store social graph data from other sites, and we never pass users’ social network IDs to Friend Connected sites or applications.

For example, here’s what an application running on a Friend Connected site can access about a user, Joe, who has linked in his hi5 account:

7547238438 joe [picture] 9438265867 8348357012

Translation: Not much. A third party app has access to:
– Your Google Friend Connect ID. This is a number. It is not a name, and it is not your hi5 ID.
– Your friendly name that you entered into Friend Connect (or from hi5 if you didn’t).
– Your photo. And only if you’ve chosen to make that photo public on hi5.
– The Google Friend Connect IDs of any of your hi5 friends who are also members of this site. (NOT all of your hi5 friends. Not their hi5 IDs.)

That’s it. These apps have no knowledge of who these friends are. They have no access to additional profile data — yours or your friends’. No idea who else is on your friends list on your social network.

Google’s statement attempts to discount Facebook’s argument that data is insecure. What I think we are witnessing at this point is simply a battle of the PR teams at both companies. Google attempted to make an announcement that included Facebook for the soul purpose of discounting Facebook’s platform and making the playing field appear level. At this point, it is now completely a PR battle which has been successful so far at generating a lot of buzz. We’ll see how long this lasts.