September 4, 2007 5:57 PM PDT
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Similarly, Facebook's terms of service state that all content on the site is the property of Facebook and its users. "No site content may be modified, copied, distributed, framed, reproduced, republished, downloaded, displayed, posted, transmitted or sold in any form or by any means, in whole or in part, without the company's prior written permission."
Facebook spokeswoman Brandee Barker added, "If someone gathers Facebook user data by circumventing our privacy controls, then they are in violation of our terms of service." She did not directly address whether Facebook executives believe Rapleaf violated those terms.
Hoffman said he didn't believe his company's practices were in violation of these terms of service. He added that any search engine that indexes profile pages of MySpace or Facebook violates the user agreements of these sites. "Almost everything you do on these sites is against these terms of service because they're written in such a strict way," he said.
Privately held Rapleaf, whose investors include Facebook backer and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, launched in 2006 as a reputation-lookup service. But over the last year, it evolved into a three-pronged service. The first prong is Rapleaf, a people search engine and social network for managing your reputation. Next is Upscoop.com, a similar site that makes it possible to discover, en masse, which social networks people in your contact list belong to. To use Upscoop, you must first give the site the username and password of your e-mail account at Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or AOL.
The third business is TrustFuse, which for marketing purposes "perform(s) deep searches on people to enrich data on your users," according to TrustFuse's previous Web site. In other words, TrustFuse packages information culled from sites into a profile and sells the profile to marketers.
That information, including e-mail addresses, is kept secure, according to the company. But Rapleaf said it may collect or maintain such data as the person's e-mail address, physical address and phone number, "demographic, psychographic/interests, friend map/network, Web sites used and other social Web data." It shows links to people's information on Amazon.com wish lists, Bebo, Facebook, MySpace, Classmates, Hi5 and Friendster, among other sites.
EPIC's Rotenberg questions data collection about members of these social networks because many of the users are kids. He added that in the 1960s, when companies first started offering "reputation services," which were called credit reports, "Congress stepped in and passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act to establish some transparency and accountability."
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