Import Your Facebook Friends' Private Information Into Gmail

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Q: My Gmail Contacts list is a cluttered mess, a tangled web of seemingly random facts and figures about people I rarely interact with anymore. But Facebook is filled with information concerning my closest friends. Can I marry these data sets?

GmailContactsToolkit-Post.jpgA: Every week, it seems, there's a new complaint about Facebook's privacy settings and how it allows people to steal your private information. You don't want your phone number getting into the wrong hands. (Or, worse, those pictures from the bachelorette party you attended last summer.) But, before we make enough of a scene that Facebook tweaks its privacy settings even further, lets use all of the information that the social network has been collecting for our own personal benefit.

There's a new Web-based application, FriendsToGmail.com, that allows you to transfer some of the information about your Facebook friends -- birthdays, hometowns, work history, etc. -- to your Gmail Contacts list. After using this service, which won't take you more than a few minutes, you'll never want for someone's current location again.

It's pretty simple: FriendsToGmail is a Facebook-enabled application that connects to your account after you give it permission to and cuts all of the information it has access to from the profiles of your friends. It spits out one large text file. Sadly, that file doesn't include phone numbers and email addresses because Facebook doesn't yet allow third-party application to pull that information. The app's creator, though, is working on that. On an FAQ page, Dan Loewenherz says he is currently "looking into ways of circumventing this restriction ... and will provide an option soon."

To import the information into your Gmail Contacts list, copy all of the text and paste it into a simple text editing program such as TextEdit or Notepad. Save the new file as a .csv. (FriendsToGmail also instructs you to do this; you won't forget that all-important file extension.) Once you've got a .csv -- and can remember where on your hard drive you saved it -- login to your Gmail account.

From your Gmail account, navigate to the Contacts page; there should be a link on the left-hand side of the screen. On this page, you'll see all of your current contacts and a 'More Actions' drop-down menu, which allows you to select 'Import.' A pop-up window will ask you to select a .csv file -- and I bet you can guess which one you're going to use here. In the process of importing that file, Gmail will automatically merge any duplicate information should you already have some of your Facebook friends on your Contacts list. 

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Image: Friends To Gmail.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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