Your email address CAN be harvested from Facebook…a heads up!

Or…yet another reason to watch who you befriend….

Facebook attempts to be what’s known in the online world as a ‘Closed Garden’ – interactions with the rest of the Internet are restricted somewhat to make the user experience better…or to keep you in the loving arms of Facebook, depending on how cynical you are.  One of the tools in this process is the Facebook API – a set of programming tools that Facebook produce to make it possible for programmers to write software that works within the Facebook framework.  Indeed, Facebook get very peeved if you try automating any aspect of the site’s behaviour without using the API.

One thing that the API enforces is the privacy controls; and one thing that you cannot get through the API is an email address.  Which is cool – it prevents less scrupulous people who’ve written games and such from harvesting email addresses from their users to use for other purposes.  It also ensures that all mass communications are done through Facebook.

Of course, if you’re determined enough you could go to every Friend’s profile page and copy the email address from there…or there are scripts that people have written to do the task by simply automating a browser.  The former is tedious, the latter is likely to get you thrown off of Facebook.

However, a method documented hereshows how this can be done through the auspices of a Yahoo mail account.   It is apparently a legitimate application available within Yahoo Mail for the benefit of subscribers.  How long Facebook will allow this loophole to be exploited is anyone’s idea, but given that I have a number of Facebook friends I felt it worthwhile warning folks.

The problem is not you, my trusted and good and wonderful reader, who would only use the tool for what it’s intended for – added convenience in contact management.  The problem lies with people who are a bit free and easy about who they make friends with.  If you do end up befriending a less than trustworthy individual, they could quite happily get your email address through this method, and soon enough you’ll be receiving all those wonderful offers for life enhancing medication and get rich quick schemes.

So…watch who you befriend.  Today might be a good day to prune out those folks that you’re not one hundred percent sure about!

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