Examples of unfair and exclusionary data sharing practices.
Unfortunately, there are far too many examples of unfair data sharing pratices. We're keeping a list of running examples here to help make it clear that this isn't a theoretical problem. It's real and happening now and hurting innovation in the tech industry.
Aaron Swartz faced criminal charges (and related suicide) for downloading public domain documents from JSTOR
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), under which Swartz was charged, allows for the punishment of anyone who "accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access," in order to obtain information from a protected computer, or to fraudulently obtain materials worth more than $5,000. (According to the CFAA, which dates back to 1984, any computer "which is used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication" qualifies as a protected computer-so, basically, any computer with an Internet connection.) In its terms of service, JSTOR pretty clearly states that users are not authorized to use scripts, spiders, or bots. Yet a relatively recent Ninth Circuit en banc decision ruled that violating computer use policies shouldn't be considered a federal crime.
Swartz, who tragically committed suicide on January 11, 2013, was arrested and charged back in 2009 for having downloaded a massive cache of documents from the website. He faced criminal charges that could have lead to potentially months or years in a prison as a result (they were only dropped this morning). JSTOR did not immediately respond to requests for comment concerning this new tool. However, over the weekend, the organization did acknowledge it was "deeply saddened" by the Swartz tragedy.
"The case is one that we ourselves had regretted being drawn into from the outset, since JSTOR's mission is to foster widespread access to the world's body of scholarly knowledge," the organization wrote in an unsigned, undated statement. "At the same time, as one of the largest archives of scholarly literature in the world, we must be careful stewards of the information entrusted to us by the owners and creators of that content. To that end, Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011."
Facebook Blocks Yandex's New Social Search App From Accessing Its Data Just Three Hours After LaunchFrom Techcrunch:
Yandex begged Facebook not to shut down its social search app Wonder that launched this morning. But the explanation Yandex's lawyers sent us for why it's compliant with Facebook's policies didn't stop Facebook from blocking all API calls from Wonder, Yandex confirms. Facebook tells me it's now discussing policy with Yandex. The move follows a trend of Facebook aggressively protecting its data.
Yandex's new mobile social "assistant" Wonder was supposed to coalesce a user's data from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram and use the data to help answer questions asked verbally, sort of like the Siri feature on Apple's iPhone. Instead, Yandex is now in a dispute with Facebook, TechCrunch reports, with the two sides at odds over whether Wonder is properly defined as a search engine and thus in violation of rules governing the use of data provided by Facebook through its software interfaces, or APIs. In the meantime, Facebook has cut off Yandex's API access, rendering Wonder significantly less viable. (Facebook could not be reached for comment.)
Power.com fights for the right to sync to FacebookFrom NY Times:
On Friday, Power.com, a site that lets users sign in to several social networks from one place, plans to respond to the lawsuit that Facebook filed against it with its own suit. It alleges that Facebook is prohibiting its users from accessing their Facebook content through Power.com and that it is trying to monopolize the social networking market.
Power.com's idea was to create a portal through which people could enter various social networking sites. Right now, people can enter their log-in information for MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Hi5 or Orkut and see their social network updates and contacts from all their networks at once. But some of the social networks are not so happy about Power.com trying to keep users on its site.
Facebook Threatens to Sue Pete Warden
He was with the head of their security team, who I knew slightly because I'd reported several security holes to Facebook over the years. The attorney said that they were just about to sue me into oblivion, but in light of my previous good relationship with their security team, they'd give me one chance to stop the process. They asked and received a verbal assurance from me that I wouldn't publish the data, and sent me on a letter to sign confirming that. Their contention was robots.txt had no legal force and they could sue anyone for accessing their site even if they scrupulously obeyed the instructions it contained. The only legal way to access any web site with a crawler was to obtain prior written permission.
PeopleBrowsr vs. Twitter Legal Battle Returns to San Francisco Court
PeopleBrowsr, the maker of social analytics tools such as Kred, has won a temporary restraining order against Twitter, allowing the company to maintain full access to Twitter's firehose of data.
The victory for PeopleBrowsr is short-term, but it does mean that the company won't be cut off on November 30, which is what PeopleBrowsr says Twitter was threatening. Temporary restraining orders are usually granted until the court is ready to decide on a preliminary injunction (which would last until the case is decided). The hearing to discuss the injunction is scheduled for January 8.
To fight that, PeopleBrowsr took Twitter to state court, alleging anticompetitive actions. Twitter argued that this should be a federal court issue and tried to parlay the fight over to a higher court of opinion. If successful, that could have invalidated PeopleBrowsr's temporary restraining order - which was filed in a California state court - essentially terminating PeopleBrowsr's access to Twitter's fire hose.
Tweetro says it's 'completely crippled' by Twitter's strict 100,000 user token limit
Tweetro has fallen victim to Twitter's strict new API policies that were announced earlier this year. According to an email we received from Tweetro developers, the app saw a huge spike in downloads after the release of Windows 8, and rapidly reached its 100,000 user token limit. Users now receive a "cannot connect to service" error when trying to authenticate the application, and Tweetro developers say the app is "completely crippled" as a result.
Twitter sets max user caps for 3rd party clients, tightens API rules to direct users to official apps
The caps will be set based on the current number of users that these clients have on a multiplicative scale. So, if a client has x users as of today and that number is over 100,ooo, it can have 200% of x users maximum. This means that any client like Tweetbot or Twitterrific can only ever have a certain amount of users, period.
The maximum limit is 100,000 users, unless special permission is given by Twitter. If a client has more than 100k users currently, it can only ever grow to 200% of that. If users of the apps de-authorize their tokens for those apps, then they're added back to that pool.
That means that no third-party client can ever have more than 100k users, unless given special permission by Twitter or it already has over 100k right now, in which case it can have double the amount it has today
Facebook Cuts Off Access to Voxer Over Competition Concerns
Voxer CEO Tom Katis told AllThingsD that the company got an email on Thursday saying that Facebook wanted to hold a phone call to discuss possible violations of a section of the company's terms of service. The section in question centers around the use of Facebook's social graph by competing social networks.
Facebook has been increasingly focused on evolving its messaging service onto phones, and this week expanded its iPhone app to include free voice calling to other Facebook users. Voxer offers a mobile app that lets its users communicate with one another via voice, text and other means, including a walkie-talkie-like service.
Katis said past discussions with Facebook have always been cordial and that the concerns appeared to come out of the blue. "Yesterday's call was the first time I ever had any inkling that something like this would happen," Katis said.
Facebook is getting stingier about giving data to startups that don't share content back to it. At least, that's how it's describing its decision to cut off a voice messaging app that it has recently begun competing against.
Yesterday, Facebook told voice messaging startup Voxer it will cut off the app's access to Facebook's "Find Friends" data citing its policy on competing social networks. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed with me that it will enforce this on apps that use its data to bootstrap growth but don't contribute anything.
Facebook Pulls Access to Friend-Finding feature in MessageMe
Facebook doesn't seem to be very keen on allowing apps to tap into Facebook's platform if they contain similar features as Facebook's own apps and services. Case in point: MessageMe, a full-featured messaging app that launched just last week and rocketed to second-place honors within its category on Apple's App Store.
Likely due to the similarities between MessageMe and Facebook's own Messenger app, Facebook has since decided to cut off MessageMe's "Find Friends" feature. Which is to say, users will no longer be able to search for Facebook friends of theirs also happen to use MessageMe via the app — doing so pulls up zero results and, on the iOS app at least, an error message that states, "The operation couldn't be completed."