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Facebook Goes After Greasemonkey Script Developer 375

Posted by timothy
from the you-must-enjoy-our-obnoxious-messages dept.
palmerj3 writes "The popular Facebook Purity greasemonkey script (now renamed Fluff Buster Purity) has been used by thousands to rid their Facebook feeds from the likes of Mafia Wars, Farmville, and other annoying things. Now, Facebook is threatening the developer of this script. Does Facebook have the right to govern their website's design and functionality once it's in the browser?"
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Facebook Goes After Greasemonkey Script Developer

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  • EULA (Score:1, Interesting)

    by bragr (1612015) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:04AM (#31622414)
    If they just stick a clause in the EULA the prohibits people from doing just that, they could stop it. Although I am not sure if they could go after the author, just those who use it. How they would detect that, I'm not sure, but I know there are a few sites that can detect AdBlock.
  • I would hope not (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TikiTDO (759782) <TikiTDO@gmail.com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:08AM (#31622434)

    Once it's in your browser, it's just a bunch of well formed data. These days almost any browser has extensions that may inadvertently modify this data, even without getting into specific tools like Greasemonkey.

    If they really feel that strongly about a topic, they could try to obfuscate the data somehow, to make it more difficult to write such an extension. This would not be too hard on their part, though obviously more computationally expensive.

  • Re:EULA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Luke has no name (1423139) <fox@@@cyberfoxfire...com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:09AM (#31622442)

    I agree, I don't think they have any legal right to stop the dev from creating a completely user-side tool. The only thing they could do (IMO) is block its functionality for users.

    Facebook is getting more and more annoying. It's unfortunate how much of a deathchoke they have on social networking (I don't know very many people without facebook; it is my main mode of online communication).

    It's known that an IPO is inevitable; if their motives have been in question now, it won't be when public stockholders are involved.

    Time to hop on the next social bandwagon. How hard can it be to host asite with 400,000,000 unique VISITORS a month?

  • Thank you Facebook (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mukund (163654) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:12AM (#31622462) Homepage

    You don't let me export my data directly. You play games threatening to disable my account if I try to export the data by using a 3rd party script. Your employees are able to access my private information easily. I just hate logging into your website these days.

    I'm going to delete my Facebook account. I can hear how my friends are doing by calling them once in a while.

  • Re:EULA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gr8Apes (679165) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:38AM (#31622608)

    This is actually a pretty easy thing for the sites to prevent. They just haven't thought it through.

    And no, I will not document how a few relatively simple steps could effectively kill all current generations of ad blockers.

  • I don't use Facebook (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OrwellianLurker (1739950) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:41AM (#31622622)
    I have a Facebook account that I signed up with bogus information to check something out once, but I don't remember which email I used to sign up or my password. However, I do happen to have a brother in college who extensively uses Facebook to connect to his campus' "scene." He is not one of those [mean adjective] people who plays stupid Facebook games and spams everyone with them. I think he'll enjoy knowing about this, and I know many of his college friends despise the annoying Facebook games. So, as a result of their attack on this developer who is breaking no laws, I am reading this /. post and my word of this wondrous script will be heard directly, and indirectly, but many Facebook users. Congratulations Facebook, you just shot yourself in the foot to spite your face (that's how it goes right?).
  • by In hydraulis (1318473) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:43AM (#31622640)
    You want another reason?

    TEX THE WORLD [thewe.net]

    (Credit to nickruiz (1185947) [slashdot.org] for bringing this to my attention.)
  • by AmigaHeretic (991368) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:54AM (#31622694) Journal
    Yeah, or you can also just use:

    http://lite.facebook.com/ [facebook.com]

    I don't get why they care if THEY themselves offer so many ways to avoid all that crap.
  • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:00AM (#31622706) Journal

    A while back, there was a company that was editing copyrighted material and distributing their edits. I'm too lazy to look it up here on Slashdot, but you could go buy an R-rated movie from them and they would cut out the appropriate naughty bits to make it a G-rated movie which they would send to you. Needless to say, the studios shrieked to high heaven and the courts shut it down.

    So, if I create a webpage and copyright it and you create something that modifies the copyrighted material and distributes it to the user, could we say that you have violated my copyright? With software to rip DVDs and such coming under fire, the courts seem to be saying that, "Yes, you can write your own tool to do it for your own personal use and we can't do anything about it. But if you try to distribute a tool which helps people violate copyright, you're in trouble."

  • by cbope (130292) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:09AM (#31622750)

    Whatever you do, don't delete your account. That just gives FB a snapshot of your current profile to keep for all eternity. If you want FB to keep as little data on you as possible, it's really quite simple although it requires patience. Gradually remove all information and apps from your FB profile, in the end leave only the bare minimum that's required to keep the profile alive. Then leave it that way for a while, at least a year or two. Then delete the account.

    FB can't possibly keep backups of every state of your profile and eventually they will be overwriting your older data with your updated and reduced profile footprint. Eventually this means they will have little data on you. Do it gradually, so it does not trip un-known snapshots of your profile which might be saved for longer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:43AM (#31622900)
    FSF could take over his legal cost. And then facebook is fucked, because the publicity combined with the probability that FSF would not drop the issue, would force them to accept and put them in a bad light. The question is could in such a case the FSF try to get the judge facebook to pay for their lawyer cost if facebook lose, which they would do.
  • by lena_10326 (1100441) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:45AM (#31622914) Homepage

    Gradually remove all information and apps from your FB profile, in the end leave only the bare minimum that's required to keep the profile alive.

    I remember watching a video of a Facebook developer giving a presentation on their data storage architecture. I can't find the video, but the gist of it was that they use a homegrown flat file structure for archiving data which includes image data. External to the archives is an index which points to offsets into the archive files. New data is appended at the end and deleted data gets dereferenced, so the deleted data still resides inside the archive. The developer even mentioned that it was possible to recover the deleted data and then proceeded to speek a little on the privacy concerns because technically the data persists forever because they don't run jobs to condense the archives. This is non-intuitive to even well informed users.

  • Re:No... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:57AM (#31622956) Journal

    You have to consider the American legal system. After they're done threatening legal action, then they'll drag him into court. It won't be a one-hearing thing either. It'll span years. They may get a court order that he can't develop nor distribute such software until the conclusion of the case.

    I am not very familiar with the legal system so I will post my question here:

    In the scenario you posted above, could it happen in reverse?

    Say ... a class action suit suing Facebook for infringing on the Users' Rights, since the greasemonkey thing is taking place on users' browsers, with nothing to do with Facebook's server site.

    Would that class action suit be valid?

    Can someone in the legal profession please help sorting this out?

    Thank you !

  • Re:EULA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:08AM (#31623270)
    problem is, if you ban me from blocking unwanted content then I'll hold you responsible for the content you'll deliver to me. If you don't want the responsibility of the stuff your servers delivers to me, then no free lunch for you. You can't possibly force an agreement onto me forcing me to watch ads. Immagine how cars windshield will be if something like that would be possible.

    You've put your content open and for free on the internet, if you want people to pay for it you build yourself a paywall (this also applies for you news agencies that like the traffic from google and then complain that to get the traffic your content had to be available for everyone on the web) - if you want an agreement that states that I can't block ads, fine, I'll sign it IF it states that you're responsible for any virus, malware, crash and nasty stuff that flash and javascript does these days.
  • by lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:10AM (#31623288)
    that won't block the message updates that applications write on your friends pages.
  • Re:No... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by msclrhd (1211086) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:24AM (#31623358)

    Ah, this is a trademark issue, not a "we don't want the script modifying our site" issue.

    I can kind of see this for "Facebook", but then the developer is not creating a "FaceBook2" or "NewFaceBook" site that competes with Facebook.

    Like others here, I don't see Fluff Busting (FB) being a trademark infringement though. If it is, it is rather tenuous.

  • Re:EULA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amRadioHed (463061) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:32AM (#31624538)

    Wow, so meeting people and having a good time you consider a "gang/clique" mentality? That's quite a strange perspective you've developed there from down in your mothers basement.

  • _they themselves_ (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mattdm (1931) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:49AM (#31624692) Homepage

    I don't get why they care if THEY themselves offer so many ways to avoid all that crap.

    I think your upper-case letters there pretty much answer the question. It's all about control. Facebook has become in fact what AOL and Prodigy and Delphi all imagined they'd be: the walled garden where their users stayed most of the time, only venturing from the home base out into the wide Internet to bring stuff back "home".

    The "lite" offering is good from Facebook's point of view because it keeps in users who might stray otherwise. But a third-party script which messes around inside the garden without their consent or control -- that's a problem.

  • Kill adblockers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by leuk_he (194174) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:34AM (#31625178) Homepage Journal

    It will be much harder if you realize that the ads are not served by the content creators, but by thirth party servers (like google and yahoo).

    You can fix that, but don't forget that advertisers do some real strange Stuff [cnet.com] you really do not want to integegrate that in your reputable website.

    As long as adblockers stay under a certain threshold you do not want to spend the time to block them, you need enhoug time filtering out the ads that get really annoying (popovers YOUR content, sounds, high cpu usage flash content, NSFW stuff).

    facebook could fight content filters, but might loose that technological battle.

    and hey, Fluff Busting Purity only got a letter, i don't see anything beyond that at this moment.

  • Re:No... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by networkBoy (774728) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:49AM (#31627206) Homepage Journal

    depending on the state the developer is sued in/resides in he can file a SLAPP motion. This allows a judge to consider the merit of the case pre-trial and either dismiss or allow the case to go forward. If the case goes forward the fact that the SLAPP was not upheld is not permissible as evidence.

    It's a powerful tool for the little guy and was developed for just this reason. Also, some states allow for a "SLAPP-back" provision thus he may get some income from this.
    -nB

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