Today, Google got the ball rolling on Gingerbread updates for the two official "Google phones", the Nexus One and Nexus S. While this is exciting, long awaited news for owners of the Nexus One, the Nexus S crowd may have some reason for disdain.

One of the things that got me really excited when I bought my first Android phone was the ability to import the numbers and email addresses of all my Facebook friends to my contact list automagically. No longer did I have to look it up on the Facebook webpage or, God forbid, call them and ask.


With the Gingerbread update for the Nexus S, Google has disabled this feature. While you can still look up your friend's number in the Facebook application, the option to sync their data with Android's Contacts app will no longer exist. In a statement released today, Google claims that the inability to migrate contact data from Facebook's servers to Google's creates a  "false sense of data portability" and justification for their decision to remove the service.

Here is Google's statement in full:

We believe it is very important that users are able to control their data. So in the over-the-air update for Nexus S, we have a small change to how Facebook contacts appear on the device. For Nexus S users who downloaded the Facebook app from Android Market, Facebook contacts will no longer appear to be integrated with the Android Contacts app. Since Facebook contacts cannot be exported from the device, the appearance of integration created a false sense of data portability. Facebook contact data will continue to appear within the Facebook app. Like all developers on Android, Facebook is free to use the Android contacts API to truly integrate contacts on the device, which would allow users to have more control over their data. We are removing the special-case handling of Facebook contacts on Nexus S and future lead devices. We continue to believe that reciprocity (the expectation that if information can be imported into a service it should be able to be exported) is an important step toward creating a world of true data liberation — and encourage other websites and app developers to allow users to export their contacts as well.

One can't help but feel like a pawn in this game of data-hoarding, as this is only the latest blow in a long battle between the two internet giants over "data liberation". Most of the actions taken by each company have had relatively minor effects on Android users, but this move hits Nexus S owners hard and will clearly have implications for Android in the long term. It's hard to imagine Facebook changing their policies before we see, what Google calls, "future lead devices".

It's obvious this decision was designed to start a public outcry, but it is yet to be seen if this outcry will actually be directed at Facebook, as the public is used to their dictatorial approach to user data. Given this acceptance, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if the displeased Nexus S users directed their scorn at Google itself. In any case, I suggest you grab some popcorn and settle in, this heavy-weight title match is about to get good.

To be clear on the situation for Nexus One owners:

There will be no change in the way Facebook contacts appear on the Nexus One. Since the Facebook app was preloaded on Nexus One, it created an expectation for users of how the device would function.

Source: TechCrunch

Zak Stinson
Zak is a neuroscience student residing in the bread basket of Canada. When not reading or writing Android news, he has been known to partake in dangerous backyard science experiments he is nowhere near qualified to perform. He also loves Thai food.

  • http://sweeterskins.net Lemon

    To be honest I found Facebook/contacts sync a GIANT pain in the ass anyway, and it slowed down my Desire HD horribly.
    I disabled it immediately. If I want FB info about someone I'll jump into the FB app.

  • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

    Google is putting its users in the middle of a fight with Facebook, and I don't think this is the right way to do it at all.

    The phone is made by Google, Google takes away functionality that existed while Facebook looks relatively innocent in the eyes of those not in the know - they've never removed features they didn't have in the first place. Thus, the Google will look like the bad guy here.

    This is about as diplomatic as telling the world MS is stealing their search results without trying to solve the problem behind closed doors.

    • David Ruddock

      I agree to an extent, but it's also Google showing FB that they're still top dog, a fair assertion.

      I imagine plenty of behind-the-scenes wrangling has already occurred on this issue, Google wouldn't act with like this without at least some attempt to resolve the issue.

      Google is strongarming FB, but we don't know the circumstances. I agree consumers are the ones paying the price unfairly, though.

      • Snafu77

        We already know the circumstances. FB closed its API to Google export so Google has returned the favor. FB started it and Google is attempting to finish it.
        When Douchebook takes enough hits on their policies they will adjust.

  • http://OMGrant.com OMGrant

    For god sakes Google... What ever happened to do no evil...

    • Karl

      You've got a skewed concept of evil.

    • Jim

      Seems to me a good facebook motto could
      be taken Pirates of the Caribbean - "Take what you can... give nothing back."

  • NJ

    agree with Lemon.. the FB syncing slowed down device terribly in Desire and now in Desire HD. In Desire it also used to eat up hell lot of precious mem space (not so much issue in HD with 1.5Gb).
    Even more importantly it is/was a big PITA as tons of people dont update their contact info on FB creating multiple incorrect entries under contacts upon "sync"!

  • http://www.chromebook.dk Philip

    If Facebook was interested in the interest of its users, it would have allowed data exportability a long time ago. However, since Facebook still haven't delivered, I think it's a bold move from Google to start twisting Facebook's arm. Anyway, I was always disappointed that the Facebook "sync" feature was not real - in the sense that it didn't add the Facebook information to my Google contacts across platforms. Go ahead Google; punch them in the Face while you're at it!

    • Duffin

      Yeah, I stopped using the Facebook sync after I realized you couldn't make any changes to the "synced" data. So, if friends had outdated phone numbers in their profile, oh well, you couldn't fix it. The wrong one would show up no matter what, even if you added a new number.

  • Aaron

    Good! Any way I can remove FB from my life even more than it s now, the better.
    This is welcome news. I knew the Nexus S was the right purchase, but now I am even happier.

  • Andy

    Will the removal of this feature also take away the contact pictures that are from Facebook?

  • http://mjparada.com maurice

    eh. no biggie.

  • http://www.droid-den.com Lekky

    Read the article.

    They just want facebook to implement it correctly. e.g. like the twitter app.

    This is not important news, and its been made a big deal out of for nothing.

    • *d.*


  • http://adamskinner.wordpress.com Adam

    So Google cooperatively worked with Facebook to provide an interface to the Contacts application that was not exposed in the normal API, and now they've decided that isn't such a good idea anymore and are backpedaling.

    I don't see the problem here. There's no reason Facebook should receive any special treatment. I don't doubt that they asked for it in the first place, and Google capitulated because they said they wouldn't play ball unless Google did.

    Now Android has solidified itself as a major player and Facebook integration isn't going to change that.

  • SiliconAddict

    This is in response to Facebook not allowing Gmail to import contacts from them. Why the hell should Google play nice if Facebook isn't? Its a moot point anyways. I dropped Facebook last Spring and will NEVER go back.

  • http://www.kenkinder.com/ Ken

    Facebook should have never been a bundled app and still shouldn't be. Google should really go a step further and remain the app so users can download it, and it can use the API, if they so desire.

    Deleting Facebook was one of the main reasons I rooted my phone.

  • Art

    It should have been done to all Android OS phones or none at all; why penalize one group for buying their phone direct from google? I have a Nexus S and feel like Google just took a dump on me specifically.

    Even though I don't want to sync facebook with my contacts, I want it to be my choice not Google's.

  • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

    Lol, same here. Deleted Facebook & Twitter. I'll use TweetDeck, thanks very much.

    • Jazzfreek

      I applaud google.I rooted to get rid of FB amd spend my time getting my friends amd family to remove this spyware (FB). I have ben very successful at it too! Thank you, google, you make my job easier.

  • Jim McP

    I blame Facebook more than Google, they don't want to play nice with anyone! I have no problem with what Google has done!

  • Asphyx

    Google should have never made the exception for Facebook in the first place.

    I am more upset about forcing me into a cloud I didn't want to be thrown into in the first place.

    Since I have to use GMail they should at least sync any contact I may have in the phone regardless of source with that gmail account. If it shows up in my contact sheet it should show up in my gmail contacts.

    I understand the advantages of the cloud but please dear god put in one damn cloud not 20!

  • Coirey

    Wow did not now by rooting i could remove facebook from my phone i hate facebook and want nothing to do with it ever root is on the way

    • Asphyx

      You don't need root to get rid of facebook just shut it off in the accounts.
      It would never sunc to facebook unless you gave it your facebook info.

      • Jazzfreek

        It still runs amd uses up memoeven if it doesn'tsync...

  • Rian

    This is mainly because after Facebook disabled the "suggest to friends" feature on pages, page admins had no option but to use gmail sync to invite their contacts to pages.
    The load must have been huge.