But both of those legal theories seem problematic. Any copyright infringement claim would be weak because data itself isn't copyrightable. And even if a Facebook page itself has some elements that can be copyrighted, it doesn't seem likely that a court would find Warden liable for infringement for making a temporary cache copy, cyberlawyer Venkat Balasubramani tells MediaPost. "I can't see the copyright argument as viable," he says.
As Warden himself points out, Web crawlers have existed as long as the Internet. "Literally hundreds of commercial search engines have followed the same path and have the same data," he wrote.
Facebook's decision to publicize some information about users raises legitimate privacy issues. Just consider MIT's "gaydar" study, which involved figuring out who at the school was gay based on their Facebook friends.
And that's only the beginning. Surely researchers all around the country are mapping Facebook users' social graph at this moment -- with or without Facebook's consent. But it's Facebook, not the researchers, who made that data available to the public.