Zuckerberg's Google boycott reaches 32 days (and counting)

'Talk to our lawyers... bitch'


Supernova On the stage, there were three chairs. And just off stage, there were three men deeply obsessed with online social networking: Dave Morin of Facebook, Kevin Marks of Google, and Joseph Smarr of Plaxo.

As they waited for their afternoon panel discussion on the ins and outs of their respective social gizmos, Mr. Plaxo turned to Mr. Facebook and Mr. Google. "I better sit between you two," Mr. Plaxo whispered.

On May 15, Facebook barred the use of Google's brand new Friend Connect service, which lets people easily export their friends list from Facebook and other social networking sites. And more than a month later, Zuckerberg and company have yet to back down.

Facebook claims that Friend Connect violates its privacy policies. But Google says it doesn't. And following 30 days of discussion, they've yet to find common ground.

After taking that stage at today's Supernova conference in downtown San Francisco, Dave Morin - Facebook's senior platform manager - indicated that the hold-up is down to the company's lawyers.

Other than that, Morin wouldn't say more than the company has said before. He insists that Friend Connect fails to give Facebookers sufficient control over their data. "When Google launched Friend Connect, we found that the technology was in violation of our terms of use and we asked Google to talk to us and what not," he said. "We've now been in direct contact with Google representatives and we're trying to find a way we can work together."

But as panel moderator Tantek Celik demonstrated with a wall-sized screenshot, Friend Connect offers multiple privacy settings for each site you export too. One setting prevents even your friends from viewing your personal data, and you can change these settings at any time. "As far we know, we don't violate [Facebook's terms of use]," said Googler Kevin Marks. "I'd like to know what we change to get this turned back on."

Morin responded by telling his audience that Facebook believes in something called dynamic privacy. "We would like to work together with you guys to try to make dynamic privacy happen for everyone, so any privacy setting that a Facebook user sets up on our side replicates on Google Friend Connect or Plaxo or any other service on the internet."

And when Marks reiterated that Friend Connect lets users choose privacy settings on the fly, Morin hid behind his lawyers. "I would prefer not to talk about legal matters on this panel," he said.

This left many to wonder whether Morin and Facebook have another reason for barring access to those 80 million friends lists. "How much of this about Friend Connect getting access to the main value of Facebook, and you not getting something back?" one voice asked from the audience. "Isn't that the underlying issue?"

But Morin said no. He insists that Facebook believes in sharing its "social graph" with other sites - and other sites sharing their stuff with Facebook. Indeed, the company has announced its own data transfer tool, Facebook Connect - though it has yet to launch.

"We need to deliver something that enables [Facebook users] to log into other sites and take their data with them," he said, "and we want to work alongside other sites that are doing similar things, to make sure that in the long run, the end user gets the most value. This [Google kerfuffle] comes down to user control and user privacy."

Considering that there are lawyers involved, we think it comes down to much more than that. And we got the distinct feeling that everyone in the room agreed with us. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Google has more reasons why it doesn't like antitrust law that affects Google
    It'll ruin Gmail, claims web ads giant

    Google has a fresh list of reasons why it opposes tech antitrust legislation making its way through Congress but, like others who've expressed discontent, the ad giant's complaints leave out mention of portions of the proposed law that address said gripes.

    The law bill in question is S.2992, the Senate version of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), which is closer than ever to getting votes in the House and Senate, which could see it advanced to President Biden's desk.

    AICOA prohibits tech companies above a certain size from favoring their own products and services over their competitors. It applies to businesses considered "critical trading partners," meaning the company controls access to a platform through which business users reach their customers. Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta in one way or another seemingly fall under the scope of this US legislation. 

    Continue reading
  • Makers of ad blockers and browser privacy extensions fear the end is near
    Overhaul of Chrome add-ons set for January, Google says it's for all our own good

    Special report Seven months from now, assuming all goes as planned, Google Chrome will drop support for its legacy extension platform, known as Manifest v2 (Mv2). This is significant if you use a browser extension to, for instance, filter out certain kinds of content and safeguard your privacy.

    Google's Chrome Web Store is supposed to stop accepting Mv2 extension submissions sometime this month. As of January 2023, Chrome will stop running extensions created using Mv2, with limited exceptions for enterprise versions of Chrome operating under corporate policy. And by June 2023, even enterprise versions of Chrome will prevent Mv2 extensions from running.

    The anticipated result will be fewer extensions and less innovation, according to several extension developers.

    Continue reading
  • I was fired for blowing the whistle on cult's status in Google unit, says contractor
    The internet giant, a doomsday religious sect, and a lawsuit in Silicon Valley

    A former Google video producer has sued the internet giant alleging he was unfairly fired for blowing the whistle on a religious sect that had all but taken over his business unit. 

    The lawsuit demands a jury trial and financial restitution for "religious discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation and related causes of action." It alleges Peter Lubbers, director of the Google Developer Studio (GDS) film group in which 34-year-old plaintiff Kevin Lloyd worked, is not only a member of The Fellowship of Friends, the exec was influential in growing the studio into a team that, in essence, funneled money back to the fellowship.

    In his complaint [PDF], filed in a California Superior Court in Silicon Valley, Lloyd lays down a case that he was fired for expressing concerns over the fellowship's influence at Google, specifically in the GDS. When these concerns were reported to a manager, Lloyd was told to drop the issue or risk losing his job, it is claimed. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022