Google issues data ban as Facebook rivalry turns bitter
Google has said it plans to start blocking Facebook and other web services from accessing user information, highlighting an intensifying rivalry between the internet giants.
Google said it would no longer let other services automatically import its users’ email contact data for their own purposes, unless the information flows both ways.
It accused Facebook, in particular, of siphoning off Google contact data, without offering anything in return.
Facebook, with more than 500 million users, relies on email services such as Google’s Gmail to help new users find friends already on the network.
Analysts said the move underscored the intensifying battle between Google, the world’s largest search engine, and Facebook, the dominant social network.
“The fundamental power dynamic on the Web today is this emerging conflict between Facebook and Google,” said Gartner analyst Ray Valdes. “Google needs to evolve to become a big player in the social Web and it hasn’t been able to do that.
“If people do search within Facebook, if they do email within Facebook, if they do instant messaging within Facebook, all of these will chip away at Google’s properties.”
Although analysts saw strategic postering in Google’s motives, the company tried to sell the data block as a data protection measure, despite the fact that it would still pass on data if it received something in return.
“We have decided to change our approach slightly to reflect the fact that users often aren’t aware that once they have imported their contacts into sites like Facebook, they are effectively trapped,” Google said.
“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,” Google said.
A Google spokesman said the company had begun enforcing the new rules “gradually”, and stressed that users would still be able to manually download their contacts in “an open, machine-readable format” which can then be imported into any web service.
“Google is trying to use the leverage that it has to get as much access to the Facebook social graph (network of friends and interests) as it can, so it can provide the best search function that it can,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Lou Kerner. “The more data Google has access to, the better its search results are going to be.”
Last month, Facebook announced a deal with Microsoft, allowing Facebook information – such as Web pages that Facebook users have endorsed by clicking on “like” buttons – to appear within Microsoft search results.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in September that the company would add social “layers” to many of its existing Web products in the coming months.