How to download a list of your Facebook fans

Photo by Tochis

A friend recently pointed me to this New York Times story on web coupons and privacy. Aside from the implications of tying in your social accounts to your buying habits, what struck me was Jonathan Treiber's assertion that "when someone joins a fan club, the user’s Facebook ID becomes visible to
the merchandiser

One of the biggest complaints I've heard from companies involved in Facebook fan pages is that they don't know how their fans are. In traditional direct marketing they have a list of customer names and their postal or email addresses, but with fan pages they only get permission to contact their fans indirectly. Everything has to go through Facebook, and at any point the network could decide to cut them off or charge them to talk to their own customers. Presumably that control has a lot of potential value to Facebook, they don't offer an official API for page owners to get a list of their fans, but Jonathan's quote got me wondering if there was another way?

Googling around, I ran across this post from Gist's very own Adam Loving explaining how he'd managed to download all the fans for his page. The process is a bit technical, and may well violate the ToS so use it at your own discretion, but it sounds like it's already in widespread usage by page owners.

The story itself makes me think that Beacon 2.0 is likely to be run by third-party companies on top of Facebook and other social network data. There's now widespread access to public profiles across all the networks, it's going to be hard to stuff that genie back into the bottle.

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