updated 07:00 pm EDT, Fri November 5, 2010
Google blocks one-way data transfers from Facebook
Google escalated a growing conflict between itself and Facebook on Friday by stating that it would no longer let outside services sync Google contacts unless they supported two-way transfers. The policy change appeared to single out Facebook, which only allows contact imports and has no way to export information. Sites that don't allow contact information to get out create a "data dead end" that prevent changes from getting back to other areas, it said.
"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 wrote.
The policy shouldn't affect the use of contact info with device sync, since the iPhone and most other platforms usually propagate changes back.
Google didn't discuss motivations outside of data freedom, but it's suspected the company is retaliating for Facebook's current refusal to make its information easily searchable and exportable. Having access to changes made in Facebook would let Google not only provide more detailed search results using the social network but would let it target advertising against those searches.
Facebook's web code has sometimes been criticized for having many proprietary elements, but its hesitation to open up may also stem from its concerns about Google's publicized plans to add social networking components. Company CEO Eric Schmidt stopped short of committing to a social network when confirming intentions in September, but buyouts of young, related companies like Jambool have signaled that it may at least partly compete with Facebook.
The existing social site's founder Mark Zuckerberg visited Steve Jobs last month and is rumored to have had an incentive to collaborate with Apple. Both are opposed to Google products that have impinged on their core businesses and may find deeper connections to undermine Android or Google's social features.