If You Were Facebook, Would You Let Google Make You Open Your Contacts List?

Friends of Facebook and users of Google's Gmail, will want to pay attention to an escalating war-of-words over who has the rights to users' personal data. As the two giants of social media fight over your information, who do you trust and who has the upper-hand?

Friends of Facebook and users of Google’s Gmail, will want to pay attention to an escalating war-of-words over who has the rights to users’ personal data. As the two giants of social media fight over your information, who do you trust and who has the upper-hand?


The first bomb in this virtual war was thrown by Google last week when it announced it would no longer allow Facebook to obtain information about Google users’ contacts in Gmail, the search engine’s email service.

The company explained that it believes “data should be free.” Left unsaid was that Facebook continues to block Google from gaining the same access to Facebook contacts data with users’ permission.

Facebook quietly absorbed the blow until Monday, when it posted on its site a downloadable feature on Google’s site that puts a user’s contacts into a separate file, which can then be uploaded directly back into Facebook.

A Google spokesman called the company “disappointed” that Facebook “didn’t invest their time in making it possible for their users to get their contacts out of Facebook.”

“As passionate believers that people should be able to control the data they create, we will continue to allow our users to export their Google contacts,” the spokesman vowed.

At that, Facebook engineer Mike Vernal took to tech blog TechCrunch to charge Google with being inconsistent on the sharing and release of user data.

“Our policy has been consistent. The most important principle for Facebook is that every person owns and controls her information,” he wrote. “We strongly hope that Google turns back on their API and doesn’t come up with yet another excuse to prevent their users from leaving Google products to use ones they like better instead.”

Google took that hit by creating a warning screen for Gmail users trying to access the Facebook download. The warning page appears whenever a Facebook user tries to “add friends” by connecting to Google’s Contact API.

Titled “Trap My Contacts Now,” it asks users, “Hold on a second. Are you super sure you want to import your contact information for your friends into a service that won’t let you get it out?”

In the midst of privacy breach after privacy breach involving each company, it’s interesting to see Google and Facebook at odds over who is the better protector of users’ personal information.

Facebook and Google users, tell us what you think. Is Facebook right to hold its ground? Do you trust one company with your private information more than the other?