Facebook Scavenger

Facebook Scavenger was a Firefox extension that stored data about your Facebook friends as you viewed their profile pages so that you could save a backup of the data for your personal use. Takedown of this extension was demanded by Facebook on March 13, 2008.

Takedown notice from Facebook

Dear Mr. Finke:

I am writing you concerning the Firefox extensions you posted at:

1) www.chrisfinke.com/addons/facebook-image-to-email and
2) www.chrisfinke.com/addons/facebook-scavenger

These plug-ins are deeply concerning to Facebook because, among other things, they violate Facebook’s trademark rights, its Term of Service, the security of the site and Facebook user privacy. For example, the facebook-image-to-email extension permits people to circumvent Facebook security measures that protect user privacy and the scavenger extension allows people to harvest data off the site in contravention of the Terms of Service and also infringes upon user privacy. A colleague of mine here at Facebook already articulated how your extensions violate the Terms of Service in a series of emails with you on or about January 4, 2008, so I will not repeat them here, but our concerns remain.

I note your stated concern for the visually impaired and understand from your emails that you are legally blind in one eye. You can reset assured that Facebook’s interests are to include people with visual impairments in the Facebook community. Indeed there are already numerous Facebook groups concerning issues faced by the visually impaired and we are proud of that. I also welcome a constructive conversation with you on your ideas on how we might be able to improve our site experience for people with visual impairments but not at the cost of user privacy and the other concerns noted above. Notwithstanding your concerns, it is impermissible for you to unilaterally implement measures that thwart Facebook security, threaten user privacy and violate Facebook’s rights.

I insist that you immediately take down the extensions listed above. I understand that this is the second time you have been asked to remove the problematic material. I further understand that after the first warning you removed the material, evidently aware of the problems the extensions posed, but then placed the extensions back on your website despite our fair warnings. If you fail to permanently and immediately remove the extensions and cease distributing them, Facebook will be forced to become more formal in its effort to protect its rights and the rights of users. Hopefully you won’t choose that path.

Feel free to contact me to discuss.



Mark Howitson
Deputy General Counsel

24 comments on “Facebook Scavenger

  1. This is fantastic, but I think I found a bug in Firefox 3 beta 2 on Vista: After I installed the extension, whenever I opened a new tab with Ctrl+T the cursor would not be in the address bar (whereas usually when you open a new tab, the focus is automatically on the address bar so you can start typing an address immediately). When I uninstalled the extension the problem went away. I wonder if the extension is stealing focus from the address bar? Unfortunately, this is a dealbreaker for me. :( I haven’t tested in Firefox 2.

  2. You could also show Plaxo/Scoble how these things ought to be done. Give users a way to upload their CSVs and have them integrated, likely so that visitors can not figure out the source of the data and that people can opt out of the aggregation.

  3. Alan L says:

    Thanks a lot, this seems handy!

    Just one small thing: I’d like to run it in the background for a while; I don’t need to be reminded that it’s there until I need it. When I installed it, it inserted its button into my toolbar (next to Back, Forward, Home, etc.) “Okay, fine”, I thought, “I don’t want it there, but I can hide it easily”. So I hit “Customize” and dragged the button into the button manager popup thing so I wouldn’t have to look at it all the time. But every time I restart Firefox, the button forces itself back into my toolbar – could you make it stop? I’d really rather be able to hide it.

    Thanks again for taking the time to develop this!

  4. Adrian Smith says:

    Thanks for this, I’ll give it a go!

    Can it also export as vCard, or is there an easy conversion from CSV to vCard?

  5. Charlie Herron says:

    1.0.4 doesn’t seem to work for Linux Firefox. In facebook-data.csv I just get one line:

    “Id”,”Name”,”E-mail Address”,”E-mail 2 Address”,”E-mail 3 Address”

  6. Fred says:

    Thanks for the great extension, it works quite well. On thing I noticed though is that it does not save letter with accents in fields other than the name. I tried to change the encoding when reading the file (with OpenOffice.org) and the characters with accents still won’t show. Thanks in advance for checking it out.

  7. john says:

    Dear Chris, Love this idea and doesn’t violate Facebook terms, eager to save my contact details of all my new online Facebook buddies, but don’t like being at the mercy of Facebook. I download and installed your Scavenger extension, but nothing happens, no icon in the toolbar as shown, why? Using Firefox current verion Help? John.

  8. john says:

    Just realised that the link for Scavenger on this page actually installs instead Facebook image-to-e-mail ver 1.2.3, so is Scavenger no longer available?

  9. john says:

    It’s now downloading correct file, Scavenger Ver. 1.1.3, tested it on several friends profiles and yes it does what is says, it downloads all profile information, ‘except’ e-mail addresses, not one of the profile downloaded had the e-mail address, each time missing, curious why?

  10. mega says:

    omg, how lame can the facebook team be. the real reason for them to reject that addon is because they want to force the poor facebook users to communicate internally instead of via email and then by looking at the content of the messages bombard them with specific adds and god knows what other reasons. “blind in one eye”, how rude..

  11. jayjay says:

    Can they even demand that? I don’t think that facebook has more power than say the right to free speech. Why don’t you make it open source software, then facebook can do nothing about it…. (or send me an email with the extension?)
    I would very much like to import my Facebook friends into Outlook so I can sync it with my mobile phone. But without your extension I have to do this by hand… Aaargh!.

  12. Josh says:

    this is puzzling. I do understand facebook can ban people from entering their site, what I do not understand is how can they have any power over other people’s websites? Sure, you are not supposed to use the extension, but I still do not see a reason why it can not be available for other people to use at their own risk (I assume the tool is not integrated into facebook and is just a scraper of the site.).
    Could you please tell me more? I would love to understand these issues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *