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The Courts The Internet

Facebook Crawler Speaks Back 317

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the everybody-litigate-now dept.
Last week we ran a story about Facebook suing to get a crawled dataset offline. This week we have a bit of a response written by Pete Warden, the guy who actually did the crawling. He followed robots.txt, and then Facebook's lawyers went after him. It's actually a quite interesting little tale and worth your time.
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Facebook Crawler Speaks Back

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  • Pretty naive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:43AM (#31747338)

    Did this guy really think he could just give away the data that Facebook sells (or intends to sell) to third parties and NOT have them sue him for it? It's no secret that the business model of most of the social sites and big search engines factor in the massive amounts of data they collect on users as a major corporate asset, to be used internally for data mining and also sold (supposedly after being anonymized) to advertisers and other third parties. It takes a babe in the woods to think he can just waltz in and take that away with a "But your robot.txt didn't say I *couldn't* do it" defense, without expecting a big legal fight.

    Is the guy in the right? Probably. Would he have a case? Probably. Does either of those facts matter if he doesn't have the big $ needed to hire lawyers and fight through several courts? Nope.

    • Re:Pretty naive (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:46AM (#31747372)

      If he's in his right, but not having as much money as a big cooperation means he'll lose anyway, then your U.S. court system is broken. Please fix it.

      • Re:Pretty naive (Score:4, Insightful)

        by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:05AM (#31747578)
        Sure, I'll just go to Congress and explain to them that they should pass a law that will be universally opposed by the corporations that give them millions in campaign contributions every year--because it's the right thing to do.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Shakrai (717556)

          I'll just go to Congress and explain to them that they should pass a law that will be universally opposed by the corporations that give them millions in campaign contributions every year

          You do realize that corporations can't (legally) contribute to campaigns in the United States, right?

          • Re:Pretty naive (Score:5, Informative)

            by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:18AM (#31747718)
            I hope you're being sarcastic. If not, I have some bad news [npr.org] for you.
            • Re:Pretty naive (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Archangel Michael (180766) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:58AM (#31748264) Journal

              Want to fix the ELECTION laws, while not breaking the First Amendment Rights to Free Speech? It is really quite simple. One simple rule.

              Only People (persons, not legal entities)who are eligible to vote can donate to political campaigns.

              This doesn't deny corporations from running ads, they just have to do it on their own, and out in the open where everyone can see who they are telling people to vote for. They have to buy their own ads to tell people to vote for Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell.

              This also goes for Unions and all other organized groups. Make them buy their own ads for their own causes.

              Simple rule, clear, concise, straightforward and solves all sort of problems with current campaign laws, without any bias towards or against anyone.

              AND that is why it won't ever be implemented.

              And I'm sure that there is someone that is going to be upset because their favorite group won't be able to donate money to a candidate/campaign while at the same time restricting anyone that might oppose them (it) from doing likewise at the same time.

              • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

                by Shakrai (717556)

                Only People (persons, not legal entities)who are eligible to vote can donate to political campaigns.

                For the most part (PACs are the exception, one that needs to be closed, IMHO) that's already the case.

              • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

                by toastar (573882)

                Only People (persons, not legal entities)who are eligible to vote can donate to political campaigns.

                So no first amendment rights til you turn 18 then?

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by mcgrew (92797) *

                  You can speak all you want, post blogs, bitch on slashdot, just not be able to donate. Donating is NOT speech and should not be covered under the 1st amendment.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Qzukk (229616)

                This doesn't deny corporations from running ads, they just have to do it on their own, and out in the open

                Why out in the open? The Supreme Court has held for a very long time now that the right to free speech means the right to anonymous speech, especially political speech. Having explicitly granted corporations the right to free speech means that they no longer can be required to identify themselves, especially with regards to political speech.

                AND that is why it won't ever be implemented.

                That was what th

                • The Supreme Court has held for a very long time now that the right to free speech means the right to anonymous speech, especially political speech.

                  Yes.. for people. But not necessarily for organizations.

                  Of course, making such a distinction will require reversing a very old (and recently reinforced) precedent in US law, where organizations have personhood. Probably requiring an amendment. So it won't happen.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by TheRaven64 (641858)
                How does that stop a company paying a bonus to every employee that donates to a particular party, or simply giving its CEO a big bonus that he then (after tax) gives to a political party?
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by vxice (1690200)
                no, your solution is a band-aid that only covers up the real problem. Voters that are swayed by fancy campaign ads are the real problem. If everyone in this country took their civic duty seriously and researched from reliable sources while completely discounting campaign ads that would fix the real problem. Prohibiting corporations from making contributions is protecting the electorate from themselves since they can't seem to do it. And as long as the electorate doesn't have to it wont and will never le
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Blakey Rat (99501)

                The real problem is that people are being influenced by ads. You shouldn't base your vote on how noisy somebody is, that's terrible and that's what we should be focusing on.

                In an ideal world, McDonalds spending tons of money on political ads would be useless because people wouldn't pay attention to them.

            • by Shakrai (717556)

              I hope you're being sarcastic. If not, I have some bad news [npr.org] for you.

              I love when people parrot things that they know nothing about. The Citizens United ruling said that corporations can spend money on advertisements. They still can't contribute money to political campaigns.

              Whatever you may think of that ruling the fact remains that it is and always has been illegal for corporations to contribute money to political campaigns. When the media reports that "so and so received money from big [boogieman of the day]" what they really mean to say is that "so and so received mone

          • Uh, I think you're thinking of Canada. One of the things I actually love about our system, actually.
        • So, you already gave up.
          "We'd like to have a fair system, but hey, we can't win anyway."

          Your government is a good government and a true representation of the people that live in the USA. The US government doesn't fix this problem, because its people just don't care.

          More on topic: I believe that regarding sites like facebook, we're going through a phase of "awareness" where the general public has no clue of how much this website knows about them.
          And therefore I salute the guy who tried to screw Facebook and

          • by elrous0 (869638) *
            Not caring and not being naive are two very different things. There are ways to change certain aspects of the system, but appealing to Congress's sense of morality is not one of them--especially in an era of ridiculously expensive election campaigns that absolutely depend on corporate and special interest sponsorship.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Lumpy (12016)

            Nope I haven't gave up, I'm hoping for an uprising. problem is that 99.997% of all Americans are placated with their cable tv. Fat dumb and happy is the American way. Almost nobody here will even inconvenience themselves for "freedom" Then we have these "tea party" idiots. loudmouths simply looking for 10 minutes of fame who really have no desire to protect freedom.

            • Re:Pretty naive (Score:4, Insightful)

              by rilian4 (591569) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @11:02AM (#31748318) Journal
              Interesting. You want people to fight for their freedoms but when someone does, all of a sudden they're a bunch of idiots. Not saying I agree w/ everything the Tea Party stands for but at least they're willing to to stand for it in public and fight for it. If they don't get loud, no one listens. Most of them probably have no desire for fame or fortune. They simply want their freedom. If you really want people to stand up for their rights, be prepared for the consequences.
              • Re:Pretty naive (Score:4, Interesting)

                by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @01:47PM (#31750926) Journal

                If they wanted their freedom, they'd be crying out over the mass imprisonment of Americans for victimless crimes. They'd also realize that being able to acquire health insurance when you're between jobs, or starting your own consulting business makes you MORE free. Nothing I've seen suggests that they actually care one bit about freedom.

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by tophermeyer (1573841)

              Then we have these "tea party" idiots. loudmouths simply looking for 10 minutes of fame who really have no desire to protect freedom.

              I suppose you attended one of their rally's and spoken with a few of them about their views before making that judgment. Oh whats that? You didn't? Oh, you heard from someone that tea partiers are all ultra conservative nutbags. You saw on tv how redneck they all look? right.

              Two serious points I have to make. One is that these "tea parties" have become the only outlet that many conservatives have for expressing ourselves politically. Many of us feel totally disillusioned by Republican party, and are

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Yvanhoe (564877)
          Or you could support Lawrence Lessig's Fix Congress First [fixcongressfirst.org] initiative which proposes to do just that.
        • by Yvanhoe (564877)
          Don't forget to bring pitchforks and torches.
          Yes, people used to do that to fix systems.
      • Re:Pretty naive (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:36AM (#31747958) Homepage

        WE have the best court system money can buy!

    • Re:Pretty naive (Score:5, Interesting)

      by qoncept (599709) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:51AM (#31747422) Homepage

      matter if he doesn't have the big $ needed to hire lawyers

      Thank you. I ran an open source project for a few years and came home one night to find to find that my webhost had taken its site down after being contacted by a company with a similar name. The company claimed they'd tried to contact me, explained how my project was causing them harm, but the simple fact of the matter was that my project's name did not infringe on theirs.

      I ended up renaming the project. I've told the story dozens of times, and the response is always the same. "That's BS! They can't do that! Go to court!" People don't understand that $20 a month in unmanaged Google ads doesn't cover lawyers the same way that company's actual paying customers do.

      • Re:Pretty naive (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Pharmboy (216950) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:18AM (#31747724) Journal

        American justice might be blind, but it know what money smells like. One more reason why we need judicial reform to prevent abuses like this. Of course fighting it wouldn't be worth it, as even if you won, your "winnings" would have only been the ability to continue using the name. Another good example is http://www.nissan.com [nissan.com], where he actually fought and won, at a great price. His name is Nissan, and his computer business and name existed back when the cars were called "Datsun", but they sued anyway. This is another one of those "We are bigger than you, thus more deserving of the domain name than you" cases.

    • FTFA:

      I'm a software engineer, my last job was at Apple but for the last two years I've been working on my own startup called Mailana. The name comes from 'Mail Analysis', and my goal has been to use the data sitting around in all our inboxes to help us in our day-to-day lives.

      All Facebook is doing is nailing has "anal".

    • I'm not sure how good his chances would be in court, though how is this any different than people scraping the train or bus timetables and such - after all, it's just a bunch of 'facts' when you get down to it. If facebook didn't want that stuff to be public, then maybe they'd put a little more effort in to their privacy mechanisms.

    • Re:Pretty naive (Score:5, Interesting)

      by julesh (229690) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:15AM (#31747698)

      It takes a babe in the woods to think he can just waltz in and take that away with a "But your robot.txt didn't say I *couldn't* do it" defense, without expecting a big legal fight.

      Yes. Apart from anything else, he's just about entirely missing Facebook's point. Facebook don't give a shit how he accesses their site; this has nothing to do with the fact that he spidered it in a way that their robots.txt file allows, and everything to do with the fact that he was *redistributing their data* without consent.

      Now, the question becomes whether what he was distributing falls under fair use. This is a very tricky question, and has nothing to do with how he acquired it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by John Hasler (414242)

        > *redistributing their data*

        No one owns data. Data is not protected by copyright in the US.

      • Re:Pretty naive (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:40AM (#31748024) Homepage

        It aint their data, it's the owners data. they are simply hijacking ownership.

      • by pla (258480)
        and everything to do with the fact that he was *redistributing their data* without consent.

        Just as a point of clarification - Does FaceBook claim to own the copyright to information entered by the users of their site?

        If not, the strongest claim FB could make would seem to boil down to theft of service ("stealing" their bandwidth via his spider). And the very fact that they have a robots file defines what they consider fair game in that regard (if they allow Google and Yahoo etc to do it, tough to say
    • Re:Pretty naive (Score:5, Interesting)

      by whisper_jeff (680366) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:32AM (#31747890)
      If they want to sell data (as they clearly do given that's what their business model is built upon) then they should take greater precautions to ensure that it is protected. If they leave that information out in the open, for anyone with a hint of insight to find, then they should not be surprised to find their valuable data in the hands of someone else. He didn't delve into their private information - he simply accessed publicly available information that anyone with an internet connection could view.

      Facebook got lucky - the data was gathered by just an average Joe without the backing to fight a legal battle. Had it been someone significantly larger, the result may have been "go ahead and sue - we'll see you in court." And, quite frankly, I'd be shocked if Facebook would win that sort of battle. And that's a battle that Facebook decidedly does not want to lose - it would mean the end of their business...

      I'd be curious to learn if that information is still available (as I am certain it is...) because someone/some company might decide that's pretty valuable _PUBLIC_ information and might, just might, decide they're willing to battle Facebook's legal team for it... Expensive legal battle over very valuable marketing data... If you have the resources for the fight, it might be a fight worth waging...

      Facebook may have gotten lucky once but they may not be so lucky next time...
    • by poetmatt (793785)

      that's a pretty dead on first post. He absolutely has a case though, in fact it's quite solid. It's public information. If it was private would be another story. I do agree he probably doesn't have the money but the gamble is the fact that if it's solid enough the judge might prevent facebook's lawyers from going after him - aka ANTI-SLAPP or equivalent.

      I have no idea if that would happen or not, but it's certainly possible. Depends on how clued in the judge is to the interwebs.

    • because, they put a robots.txt file in their root folder which allowed him to crawl everything.

      its facebook's fault.

  • Ballsy. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:47AM (#31747388) Homepage

    Stupid, but ballsy. Gotta give credit where it's due.

    • Re:Ballsy. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:58AM (#31747496) Homepage Journal

      Not really ballsy considering he didn't actually let Facebook's challenge of "The only legal way to access any web site with a crawler was to obtain prior written permission" go to court. Maybe he should have gone to the EFF for help as the repercussions of a judge actually deciding in Facebook's favor would have been devastating to the web.

      • by Pojut (1027544)

        I meant it was ballsy to assume a beast as huge as Facebook would let him do this.

        I can understand not wanting to go bankrupt, but I agree with you and others...he likely could have found someone willing to work on this case at no charge. Still, the guy seems quite talented and capable...I'm sure he will find a way to get the professional recognition he deserves.

  • Mark Zuckerberg (Score:5, Interesting)

    by prayag (1252246) <prayag.narula @ g m a i l . c om> on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:49AM (#31747404)
    Mark Zuckerberg is the most unethical guy in the industry today. As is obvious by the origins of Facebook, his infamous hacking of the journalists passwords during the the-facebook era and countless other fiascoes that come to news from time to time. Everyone who has ever dealt with him says have bad things to say about him.
    If he is the face of the next generation entrepreneurs, then god saves the industry.
  • Publicity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rwa2 (4391) * on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:51AM (#31747412) Homepage Journal

    The guy's work looks somewhat interesting. I don't see why he can't just make it a facebook app or something that just happens to crossover onto the rest of the internet as well, maybe that would have helped him fly under their radar if it was seen as something that enhanced facebook.

    But seems like his problem all along was lack of publicity, which /. will surely help with.

    That said, call me old-school, but I've had more fun with things like ircstats [humdi.net]. So I'm mostly still waiting for this new social crap to catch up.

  • Arachnophobia (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mfh (56) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:52AM (#31747430) Journal

    I might be alone here but spiders revolt me to a point where I simply respect them and leave them alone.

    But that said, Google operates a spider, pretty much. So we have to look at any potential spider on the internet like we might look at Google. If he followed the Robots.txt as Facebook set it up and he didn't try to misunderstand it, then there isn't anything they can do. Although, I'm pretty sure the Facebook EULA says you can't spider them so he's SOL anyway if that's the case. This should be a long and drawn out case unless there is a settlement.

    Facebook is ripe. People put up EVERYTHING about themselves on there. I never accept a friend request unless I know the person and I offer a challenge question often. If it's not responded to adequately, I simply ignore them. But in the end there isn't much you can do. If you put it on Facebook -- consider it public, like if it was in the phone book.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mfh (56)

      Disregard this, he settled.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I might be alone here but spiders revolt me to a point where I simply respect them and leave them alone.

      Spiders in my house are OK; spiders in my bathroom must die. Incidentally, this is why I don't run google desktop :D

      If he followed the Robots.txt as Facebook set it up and he didn't try to misunderstand it, then there isn't anything they can do.

      Would that this were true.

      This should be a long and drawn out case unless there is a settlement.

      Too true.

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      I may be going out on a limb, but I doubt that it matters if he operated the spider in a legal manner. Selling data from Facebook isn't the same thing as the attempt at fair use that Google engages in.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by mfh (56)

        Google sells our information by what we like. They do it in a way that somewhat protects our privacy and it's part of their service. Gmail targets adds directly to you based on keywords in your emails. If you had enough money you could know what people are talking about by how the adds played out. Therefore there is no real privacy on Google email, and Google reads our emails.

        Google collects all kinds of websites and offers search. They build stats and sell off residual information based on information coll

        • "Therefore there is no real privacy on Google email, and Google reads our emails."

          Actually, most email systems are setup that there is no "Privacy" at all in any of them. And if you mean "read" email, having computer automated bots skim emails looking for key words and phrases, then every time you do a search, set up a filter or otherwise, then your computer is reading ever email you ever wrote "OH NOES"

          And the Post Office, they read all those mail envelopes they deliver to your house! GASP THE HORROR. And

      • by Herkum01 (592704)

        Yahoo has my email, does that mean they own my email account? I don't think so. When people say that somehow Facebook owns this data it is a load of crap. They no more own that data than Google owns the content of the web sites they have crawled. They provide a place to host information, they provide a way to relate users to each other and users have a way of sharing it. In fact all the users of the system enter the information, not Facebook. So at what point do you people believe that this magically bec

        • by omnichad (1198475)

          Because their TOS says that they own whatever you put into it. As far as I know, that would stand up in court.

          • No one owns data under USA law. Their TOS may get them some sort of license for any copyrightable content (creative expression on Facebook? I suppose there is some...) but it very unlikely that it can get them ownership of the copyrights: that requires an explicit instrument of conveyance.

            • by omnichad (1198475)

              Ok. Sure. But you still illustrate the point. The "Facebook Crawler" doesn't have permission of Facebook's users to sell this copyrighted data. Facebook does.

    • Re:Arachnophobia (Score:5, Informative)

      by OnlyJedi (709288) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:12AM (#31747658) Homepage

      From the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities [facebook.com], Section 3 "Safety":

      2. You will not collect users' content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our permission.

      The question then becomes how enforceable is the agreement? Sure, if he has an account Facebook can close it, but if he is just accessing Facebook without an account do they have a case? Last I saw you can browse parts of profiles without being logged in, and without ever agreeing to any terms.

      • > ...if he is just accessing Facebook without an account do they have a case?

        No.

      • That is in the EULA though. There is still plenty of publicly available data where the EULA doesn't apply at all. Ignoring the fact that EULAs are completely unenforceable besides for the transfer of knowledge (checking it shows you read it but you don't have to follow it).
  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:52AM (#31747432)

    Assuming what he did produces a valuable result.

    If it's defensible in court by an entity with enough cash or lawyer might, why is there no such entity doing the same thing and then fighting facebook in court?

    If it isn't defensible in court, why does it matter that he didn't fight because he didn't have the money?

    • Who wants to go through the trouble to put themselves at big legal risk just to be right?? With no possible payoff. And guaranteed loss of time and money.
  • this is what the guy should do:

    1. engage the lawsuit

    the downside is financial exposure. so incorporate your work in such a way that it can't hit your personal finances. the upside is massive exposure. you will achieve some level of fame: the guy who finally gave the robots.txt convention a legal status quo. this will help you professionally, as well as make your life story

    2. whine to google

    you are completely right that google shouldn't have to get permission every time it wants to crawl the site. therefore GET GOOGLE TO DEFEND YOU

    • by ikoleverhate (607286) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:03AM (#31747544)
      how about if he rejigged his crawler to get the data from the google cache instead? So he'd never get anything from facebook or enter into any implied agreement with them.
      • by MarkGriz (520778)

        how about if he rejigged his crawler to get the data from the google cache instead? So he'd never get anything from facebook or enter into any implied agreement with them.

        That's a good one. And he though he had a problem with Facebook lawyers? I hear that Google lawyers eat Facebook lawyers by the bowlful.

    • by bhtooefr (649901)

      Either that, or there's another tactic that you could use.

      Do step 1.

      But then, instead of doing step 2, get a crap lawyer. Intentionally lose the case.

      Then, Google will lobby Congress to push through a law legalizing robots.txt, which will trump the case law.

      • by idontgno (624372)

        Then, Google will lobby Congress to push through a law legalizing robots.txt, which will trump the case law.

        Only if the case hinges entirely on robots.txt

        The real "infringement" isn't crawling to collect this data, it's actually collecting it. If you were insane enough to collect usage, friendship network, and other statistics by hand-clicking Facebook pages and tallying numbers with a pad of paper and a pencil, Facebook would still be down your throat.

        Those numbers, in Facebook's ego-inflated universe, b

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:15AM (#31747692)
      Most lawyers work for money. It's nice to think that the little guy in the right can take on the big guy and wins in court. But real life isn't a movie. Most of the time the little guy fighting a case like this ends up broke, whether he wins or loses. It's also nice to think that he could just go to the EFF and get a lawyer for free, but something tells me it's not that simple (I suspect the EFF is already swamped with what few lawyers they have).
    • the guy who finally gave the robots.txt convention a legal status quo

      Good lord, I hope not. There's two sides to that coin.. if you're going to give legal clout to "it wasn't listed in robots.txt therefore it's legal to index it" you give the same legal clout to the notion "it was listed in robots.txt, so your crawler which disregards it is in violation of legal statutes". Next they would suggest that the pages behind the little "Terms of use" links hidden away somewhere should get legal clout as well.

      rob

    • so incorporate your work in such a way that it can't hit your personal finances

      This is not going to happen. Incorporate away, but when push comes to shove they'll be able to 'pierce the corporate veil' make the guy personally liable and take everything he owns especially if one side has expensive lawyers and the other side has few or none. You have to have a legitimate business in the eyes of the court plus fulfill other requirements to have that protection work.

  • Do I really need to say anything else at this point?
  • by Halo- (175936) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:09AM (#31747628)
    I am not anything even approaching a lawyer, but I suspect his actions were probably legal. The Internet is a public medium, unless you specifically put walls around content, it has the same protection as if you posted fliers on a physical bulletin board in a public place. Yes, you retain copyright over your content, but you have ZERO ability to say "by reading this, you agree to additional terms". If I want to produce a review of all the fliers posted around town, I can. If I want to make excerpts (within "Fair Use") I can. Pretty much the only thing I can't legally do is deface them or copy them outright. Unless he was doing this from a logged in account, I can see how they can limit what sorts of derivative works he makes. (So long as the derivative doesn't violate copyright)
  • Ooo, deja vu (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lxt (724570) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:10AM (#31747634) Journal
    It's sort of ironic that Facebook is trying to stop someone crawling public profiles on their site, because that's exactly what Mark Zuckerberg did while he was at Harvard (I was a grad student in the CS department at the time).

    Pre-Facebook, Zuckerberg created a site that let Harvard students compare each other, a bit like Hot or Not. Obviously nobody was going to go to a site that wasn't populated with their classmates, so he basically crawled the websites of the various residential houses that put their students info online (but behind passwords and auth) and copied it into his own site.

    He actually got into a fair bit of trouble for this, and ended up being sent to Harvard's ad-board for discipline (I think he got put on probation, but I'm not entirely sure).

    The key difference here is that this guy actually did everything by the book and followed robots.txt, whereas Mark Zuckerberg didn't.

  • by whencanistop (1224156) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:22AM (#31747762) Homepage Journal
    Facebook's privacy policy [facebook.com] says:

    “Everyone” Privacy Setting. Information set to “everyone” is publicly available information, may be accessed by everyone on the Internet (including people not logged into Facebook), is subject to indexing by third party search engines, may be associated with you outside of Facebook (such as when you visit other sites on the internet), and may be imported and exported by us and others without privacy limitations. The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.” You can review and change the default settings in your privacy settings. If you delete “everyone” content that you posted on Facebook, we will remove it from your Facebook profile, but have no control over its use outside of Facebook.

    I'd also like to point out in their terms [facebook.com]:

    When you publish content or information using the "everyone" setting, it means that everyone, including people off of Facebook, will have access to that information and we may not have control over what they do with it.

    • by crivens (112213)

      "we may not have control over what they do with it."

      Haha - guess Facebook has everything covered. You can't sue Facebook if your info gets into the wrong hands. But the info can't get into the wrong hands because Facebook won't allow it. Unless they give it out. That's why we shouldn't use Facebook.

  • Privacy ... (Score:4, Funny)

    by zuperduperman (1206922) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:26AM (#31747800)
    So, Mark, you say Facebook have a reasonable expectation for privacy of its data? Isn't privacy passe now? Or did I hear you wrong?
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:37AM (#31747980) Homepage

    Threats of legal action are not a lawsuit. He didn't get sued. He got bluffed. I don't blame him for caving in, but he shouldn't mislead people by referring to the receipt of threats from lawyers as being sued (this is the sort of error I expect from the Slashdot editors, of course).

  • by unity100 (970058) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @11:08AM (#31748370) Homepage Journal

    imagine - you put a robots.txt in your root directory, allow crawlers to crawl everything, and then sue those who crawled your stuff.

    facebook is not even an established, long standing part of the big capital elite, they are startups, who are from the new generations and from the new tech age.

    but see, when they became big capital, they are similarly trying to stomp down others by their copy'right' and big money, despite they come out from our own lot in the recent decade.

    this shows, regardless of generation, or culture, having copyrights and big capital eventually cause intellectual feudalism favoring the rich elite, EVEN if they are in the wrong.

  • Loser pays... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @11:18AM (#31748506)
    One reform that would help - not completely, because deep pockets would still win out a lot - is the idea of "loser pays." One of the few decent legal ideas out of Europe, and helps prevent frivolous suits...
  • Missed Point (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DarksideDaveOR (557444) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @03:45PM (#31752862)

    I've read through the visible comments, and all of them seem to miss the point: the legal system has just operated in reverse. Rather than preventing the stronger entity from stealing from the weaker, it was actually the means by which the stronger DID the stealing.

    Here, so far as I can tell, is what happened: The guy pulled a bunch of PUBLICLY AVAILABLE data from Facebook, connected it in new and interesting ways, offered to sell the product of his hard work to other entities, and then had to delete it all because Facebook got antsy and sued him, and he didn't have the money to defend himself. And of course, Facebook will now take the same ideas, and build up and sell their own datasets.

    This is akin to bullies using school rules to steal homework from nerds and turn it in under their own names.

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