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Warden gathered that data from public profiles using "crawling" software similar to what's commonly available on the Web; he was planning to release the set to select researchers, who proposed cross-referencing that data in all sorts of cool ways, trying to find links, for example, between income, employment, and social connections. (Does having more friends equal more cash? Is there a threshold, where too many friends means you're way to social?) As Warden was at pains to point out, the data is exceedingly public: You can still access it through Google's caches; and as Warden writes, "Nobody ever alleged that my data gathering was outside the rules the Web has operated by since crawlers existed."
"Nobody ever alleged that my data gathering was outside the rules the Web has operated by since crawlers existed."
Warden says that Facebook threatened legal action if he did not delete the data. He duly destroyed all the records, saying he did not have the funds to contest a lawsuit.
Looks like Facebook just threatened to sue, and Warden caved in to avoid the hassle and expense. They never brought suit, and so no legal precedent was created.
Robots.txt is no defense of anything anywhere. It has never ONCE been upheld in court.
FB's terms of service talk about robotic software being unacceptable way to connect. If they win on those grounds, that actually is a win for site owners.
FB's terms of service talk about robotic software being unacceptable way to connect