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Facebook Forces Entrepreneur Pete Warden To Destroy Data

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BOULDER, Colo. — An entrepreneur destroyed a database that showed regional patterns among 210 million Facebook users after the social networking site accused the Colorado man of misusing the site and threatened to sue.

Pete Warden of Boulder said he had planned to share the information he gathered with researchers. Facebook countered that Warden gathered the data without permission, violating rules of the site.

Warden recently announced he had destroyed the data, including his own copy. He said he wasn't convinced that what he did was illegal but said he couldn't afford to fight a lawsuit.

Warden said he starting compiling the data while developing a search engine for his startup company.

"I've been fascinated by some of the patterns that have emerged," he wrote in February on his blog.

He dubbed the region from Minnesota to New York "Stayathomia" because most Facebook friends lived nearby.

"Dixie" encompassed the Deep South, where people had strong ties to nearby towns. "Greater Texas" extended beyond Texas to Oklahoma, Arkansas and Gulf Coast areas. The Dallas Cowboys and God had popular fan pages there.

In "Socalistan," encompassing most of California, Michael Jackson and Barack Obama fan pages were big.

Most of the West was called the "Nomadic West" because Facebook friends tended to be far apart.

Warden built the database using a Web crawler, which automatically scans the Internet and indexes certain types of information.

Spokesman Andrew Noyes said Facebook's posted rules bar the use of Web crawlers without permission.