Facebook policy now clearly bans exporting user data to competing social networks

Facebook updated its policy on Wednesday to make it clear that developers can not use the platform to export user data from Facebook to be used in another social network.

The company has long had policies that prohibit apps from transferring data to third parties such as ad networks and data brokers, but until now it hadn’t been quite as clear about that policy applying to other social networks. Director of Developer Products Doug Purdy addressed the issue in a blog post last year, though the company’s stance wasn’t fully reflected in official policy documents.

The full policy related to competing social networks is below. Section A is the newly added content.

Competing social networks: (a) You may not use Facebook Platform to export user data into a competing social network without our permission; (b) Apps on Facebook may not integrate, link to, promote, distribute, or redirect to any app on any other competing social network.

Facebook says its platform is designed to enable rich social apps, not serve as a data export tool. The company says apps that aim to export data into networks like Google+ should use the Download Your Information tool, not the platform APIs. However, the format of that export is not necessarily useful for transferring data to another social profile. It includes some email addresses, but only for friends that have opted into sharing this information. The option is buried within the email settings section of account settings, so it’s unlikely that many users have done this.

Google and Facebook blocked or put up roadblocks on importing and exporting data between their services in November 2010. Google had accused Facebook of not supporting data portability because users couldn’t export email addresses of friends, but could import addresses from services like Gmail. Facebook responded by saying the email addresses of friends are not a user’s own data, and therefore they don’t have the right to export them. Meanwhile, it allowed these same email addresses to be exported through Yahoo! Mail and some smaller third-party email services.

Facebook also came under some criticism recently when it began hiding users’ email addresses and showing their Facebook.com addresses instead. At the time, we wondered whether the change was related to preventing contact importing and exporting, but Facebook did not comment on this issue.

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