Facebook will tell you that its most valuable asset is its deeply engaged, Web-savvy user-base.
But sometimes you have to wonder if the company didn’t wish those
users were just a tad less engaged or just a tad less savvy.
Take the latest efforts of another passionate Facebook user, John
Arrow. He’s a sophomore at the University of Texas and he owns and
and operates UnFaced.com.
After users register on the site, UnFaced e-mails them a link to add
to their Facebook profile pages.
Then, when other Facebook members click on the link in that profile
page, UnFaced records their visit. It gets the name of the visitor
by offering a free compatibility test.
On the site, Arrow calls UnFaced a “fun add-on to the already
Facebook isn’t giggling. First Facebook shut down Arrow’s personal
profile. Then, Facebook engineer Andrew Bosworth sent Arrow something
of a cease and desist e-mail.
“I’m sure you meant the site in good fun, but [UnFaced] is a serious
violation of several clauses of our terms of service including
automating against the site and storing site data locally which
attempt to circumvent our carefully built privacy tools,” Bosworth
wrote in his e-mail.
Bosworth also objected to the use of the word “Face” in UnFaced,
suggesting that it might violate trademark laws.
“I think it’s a knee-jerk reaction from Facebook,” Arrow told
“They are just worried that something could upset Yahoo buying them,”
Arrow said, referring to recent reports suggesting that Facebook
turned down an $800 million acquisition from the Sunnyvale,
Facebook could not be reached for comment.
But a former social-network owner and operator told
internetnews.com it’s more likely that bit about “automating
against the site” that’s got Facebook so testy.
He said that UnFaced is not only scraping proprietary content from
Facebook’s site, it’s also “automating against the site” to get past
a login process.
It’s not that he would have tolerated it when he ran his own social network.
He thinks Facebook will do next what he would have done: block
Arrow’s IP address from accessing any Facebook data.
Arrow admitted that he’s “scraping” data from the Facebook profiles,
but said it shouldn’t matter because UnFaced only did so at the
behest of users who gave Facebook that content in the first place.
But if it comes down to a question of content ownership, the former
social-network owner thinks Facebook comes out on top.
Like any user-generated content, user data belongs to the site on
which it’s uploaded.
So will all this force Arrow to shut down UnFaced.com?
“Absolutely not. It’s out of the question.”