But the problem is that they’re my relationships, not Facebook’s. The social network is merely the tool I’ve used to define them. It’s my data and I should be able to get it back, without resorting to terms of service violating activity. And Facebook is already facing a [storm of criticism](http://www.techmeme.com/) as this little-known user’s draw what I’m sure was totally unexpected traffic…
There’s a lesson here for publishers, too.
For a long time, they’ve used gathered user data for commercial purposes. In particular, they sell databases of readers to commercial companies for marketing purposes. This is particularly common amongst the “controlled circulation” publishing sector, where readers get the title for free, but have to supply detailed information about themselves to get the mag.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, as long as permission is sought and, crucially, that readers have an easy way of getting their names off the list if they so wish. But as we move into an online publishing era, the sort of data that publishers are looking to harvest and “monetise” (oh, how I hate that word) also has value to the user. It’s fine for the publisher to make commercial use of that information, as long as permission is sought. But coupled with that is the responsibility to acknowledge that the user owns that data, and that you should provide them with a means of retrieving it, if they want to – even if that means they take it to a competitor. And that’s going to be a tough change for many companies to adapt to.