Google to stop automated import of Gmail contacts to Facebook

5 Nov 2010

Google has changed its terms of service to prevent the automated import of Gmail contacts to Facebook because Facebook will not return the favour.

The new term states that Google supports the portability of data, so by accessing content through Google’s Contacts Data API or Potable Contacts API for use in the site’s services, it must agree to let their contacts be exported to other services.

The change means that users will no longer be able to import Gmail contacts directly to sites like Facebook until they let their users export their contacts elsewhere.

However, users can still export their contacts from Gmail to their computers and then import those contacts to Facebook.

“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,” a spokesperson said to TechCrunch.

“Google users will still be free to export their contacts from our products to their computers in an open, machine-readable format and once they have done that they can then import those contacts into any service they choose.

“However, we will no longer allow websites to automate the import of users’ Google Contacts (via our API) unless they allow similar export to other sites.

“We hope that reciprocity will be an important step towards creating a world of true data liberation – and that this move will encourage other websites to allow users to automate the export of their contacts, as well,” said the spokesperson.

This intensifies the war between Facebook and Google, who are big competitors in the online arena. Facebook had previously made deals with Hotmail and Yahoo to let those services access its contact data, but because Google did not form a similar partnership, it hasn’t done the same for Google.

By blocking off this functionality, Google is trying to pressure Facebook to cave in and return the favour. If Facebook lets up, its users will be able to join Gmail and add its Facebook users of the service to its contacts, an added bonus for the email service.

Facebook has been dominating the social space in the web, which Google has tried to break into. It will be interesting to see how the social networking giant responds to this move.