Google disables contact sync in Facebook for Android, but only Nexus S for now

You know that Android 2.3.3 update that's trickling out to Nexus S smartphones right now? Google's decided to take this opportunity to push its data portability agenda with regards to Android. Simply put, the feature of the Facebook for Android app to provide the social network's stored contact information to your Nexus S has been revoked from here on out, and as soon as you get the update all that contact information will disappear from your contacts app on your phone.

We've spent a while chatting with a Google rep, and they explained that the company is actually just reinstating the official rules -- typically, apps have to use Android's contacts API, but Facebook was granted an exception which allowed its contacts to remain in the cloud. In effect, what Google's claims it's doing here is the same thing that would happen if you uninstalled the app, or deleted your Facebook account -- your contacts created and stored in the network would no longer be visible in your contacts app. In other words, Google's attempting to push Facebook into making that data available to itself, which would be handy (think of the other apps that could use your Facebook data on the go) but potentially worrisome in terms of privacy as well. Either way, the argument is not likely to directly affect many individuals in the short term -- Google tells us that Facebook's sync privileges will only be revoked in the Nexus S (not the Nexus One) and other "lead devices" yet to come. Read the company's full statement after the break, and decide for yourself if this is worth arguing about.

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.