Facebook is suing Power Ventures in Northern California District Court for its social network aggregator, Power.com. Power.com is used to pull together information from a variety of social network sources.
Facebook maintains that PV is violating a number of its terms of service, including one that insists you cannot "collect users' content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our permission."
All Facebook said that in itself is not illegal, but by utilizing a proprietary site's information without its permission makes it "a criminal violation under the California Penal Code Section 502(c) and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)."
Facebook argues that by offering these enhanced services to users, Power violated California's computer crime law. It grounds its claim in the fact that Facebook's terms of service prohibit a user from having automated access to a user's own information and that Power continued to offer the service to Facebook users even after Facebook sent Power a cease and desist letter demanding that it stop. Yet merely providing a technology to assist a user in accessing his or her own data in a novel manner cannot and should not form the basis for criminal liability.
It's hard not to buy the logic of EFF's argument. It's equally difficult not to see the possibility that this suit is an attempt to discourage any actions on the part of users to master Facebook information. That interpretation is certainly in keeping with Facebook's recent activities, in terms of its providing user information to developers and forcing users' hands when it comes to their own information. Facebook, it might be argued, wants to be the only arbiter of its information. And by its information, of course, they mean yours.