Facebook Data Synergy into an Excel Sheet
May 29, 2007 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Is it feasible and not a violation of the Facebook terms of service (and not exorbitantly expensive) to find a programs (or someone to write a program) that would go through a list of Facebook profiles and create an excel sheet with fields filled in with their info from the various fields in their profiles?

My work deals with a college population and we are updating our own internal database which contains basic information about these students. We currently have name and email address for all of them and phone number for some of them in an excel spreadsheet. I know almost nothing about the Facebook API or other ways to get info out of facebook, but I know of a program that allows you to sync up your apple imail contacts with facebook info and pictures, and I am hoping we can do something similar.

* Does anyone know if it is technically possible and not a violation of the Facebook ToS, to compile an excel sheet with Name, IM name, groups, interests, etc. from a facebook profile?
* Does anything like this exist already where you can enter in a list of people (by name, or email or profile address or a specific individual's friends) and have it compile the info you need in an excel sheet?
* If we would need to have this built for us, does anyone have a sense of how much this would cost and the best place to find someone to do this? Is this a relatively "easy" project or would it be a big deal to design and code?

Thanks for all the help.
posted by andoatnp to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Yes, it would almost certainly be possible, but from the Facebook ToS:

User Conduct


In addition, you agree not to use the Service or the Site to:

* use automated scripts to collect information from or otherwise interact with the Service or the Site;

So it would be a pretty clear violation.
posted by flashboy at 11:28 AM on May 29, 2007

From the Facebook | Terms of Use:

Proprietary Rights in Site Content; Limited License

All content on the Site and available through the Service, including but not limited to designs, text, graphics, pictures, video, information, applications, software, music, sound and other files, and their selection and arrangement (the "Site Content"), are the proprietary property of the Company, its users or its licensors with all rights reserved. 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, except that the foregoing does not apply to your own User Content (as defined below) that you legally post on the Site.

Looks like you would have to get their permission. Doubt that is going to happen. But if you did, you could find a coder to write you a script that does what you want for under a thousand.
posted by dnthomps at 11:29 AM on May 29, 2007

I haven't read Facebook's TOS, but I think it would depend on what you plan to do with said Excel sheet. I for one would be inordinately pissed if you used my profile information for marketing purposes. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised either.

As for its legality, I'm dubious, although maybe now that Facebook has become almost universally accessible, the TOS have changed.

You could email the Facebook guy and find out directly, you know. Unless you don't want the answer.
posted by bluenausea at 11:30 AM on May 29, 2007

Facebook just recently opened up their API for developers, to create 'Facebook Applications'. I have no idea if that would help you or not, but it might be worth looking into.
posted by cgg at 11:38 AM on May 29, 2007

It's technically possible, and has been done before as noted in Facebook's wikipedia article. As someone with screen-scraping experience, I'd imagine that getting the data is pretty trivial, although Facebook probably has security measures to make sure you don't do this (but are no doubt circumvented).

Violation of ToS: probably, although the most that Facebook can do is cancel your account. If the data is publicly available, then there's really nothing they can do other than make their site harder to scrape. IANAL, but I'm guessing Facebook would find it hard to prove damages in a court of law.

I'm pretty sure other companies have done this to all the social networking sites, for nefarious marketing purposes. They're not going to let you look at it though.
posted by meowzilla at 12:08 PM on May 29, 2007

What percentage of the students are actually going to be providing relevant data such as real name, college, and email addresses? I am on Facebook but not with my real name.
posted by JJ86 at 12:10 PM on May 29, 2007

I once came across a program that did something very similar to what you describe. Basically, it mined the profile of all of your facebook friends and produced, as I recall, vCards with e-mail addresses and phone numbers. I'll see if I can remember what it was called or if it still exists.

JJ86, In the sampling population of my ~1000 facebook friends, none are going by aliases. There are gag accounts with names of celebrities or fictional characters, but for the most part people realize that using a fake name would kind of undermine the social networking aspect of the site.
posted by roomwithaview at 12:27 PM on May 29, 2007

I've already written a script that (essentially) does this. Logs in, visits a page, saves to csv. Not user pages, network statistics (It's for an infographic).

Just saying it's possible.
posted by tmcw at 1:16 PM on May 29, 2007

To clarify, I work at a campus ministry and the people we are seeking information about have already opted into our email list and wish us to contact them. We have been going through manually and looking for information in their profiles around specific programs (like when we do an environmental program, we look at the Eco facebook group to see if we recognize people to invite), but we have about a thousand students in our database and we would like to find a way to automatically update our database.

I had heard of previous programs that did this type of info-scraping that would get shutdown by Facebook because of their terms of service. Now, it seems they are being more lenient (or actively encouraging) this type of thing with their new API and openness. What I am looking for is something similar to facebooksync, but to put it into a excel file instead, and to gather information from more fields.
posted by andoatnp at 2:37 PM on May 29, 2007

I can write the script for you. Email me with details. I've done something like this for another AskMeFi person who I'm sure will vouch for me if you'd like a reference.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:12 PM on May 29, 2007

Er, just to clarify - the Terms of Service I linked to were updated after the public launch of Facebook Platform. They are not "actively encouraging" it, they're explicitly prohibiting it. I'm not saying that you'll get in a world of trouble for doing it (as this thread shows, plenty of people have done it already), but it is still clearly against their ToS.

(I also don't know about the ethics of doing so given your position of some responsibility in an educational establishment, but you should probably consider that as well. Students giving you their email address for a list isn't the same as them consenting to having their information compiled into a database. Once again, it probably won't to get you in trouble, but you might want to cover your back.)
posted by flashboy at 3:56 AM on May 30, 2007

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