One such service, Seppukoo.com, created by the Italian group Les Liens Invisibles, drew attention late last year after launching a campaign to convince people to commit Facebook suicide. Wannabe ex-Facebook members can provide Seppukoo.com with their names and passwords and Seppukoo then not only deactivates their profiles, but also creates a "memorial" page that it sends to users' former Facebook friends.
Facebook evidently isn't happy about this development. Last month, the company fired off a cease-and-desist letter to Les Liens Invisibles, complaining that users who provide log-in data are violating Facebook's terms of service. The company also alleges that the scraping of its data violates a host of laws, including an anti-hacking law, the federal spam law and the copyright statute.
Despite the strident terms of Facebook's letter, the legal issues appear unsettled. Facebook made similar complaints in a pending lawsuit against Power.com, which aggregates data from social networking sites, enabling people with accounts through a variety of services to access all of their information from one portal. In that situation, a Facebook spokesperson told the media that Power's technology could pose a threat to members' privacy because Power enables users to easily transfer photos or messages marked 'private' to other social networking services.
But that case hasn't yet gone to trial and it's not certain how a judge will view Facebook's attempt to prevent users from sharing data with outside companies.
Meantime, Facebook appears to be taking matters into its own hands. The Los Angeles Times reports today that Facebook is now blocking the IP address of another company, Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, which helps people quit social networking sites by unfriending their contacts. Like Seppukoo.com and Power.com, Suicide Machine asks users for their names and passwords.
As with the Power.com controversy, Facebook says it's merely protecting users' privacy. A company spokesperson says that Facebook prohibits the scraping of information in order to "respect the decisions users make about how to share their data."
That justification would perhaps carry more weight if Facebook itself hadn't just revised its privacy controls by resetting many of its default settings to "share everything." Apparently, it's one thing for Facebook to share users' data with search engines and other Web users, but quite another when an outside company gets hold of the same information.