Path apologizes for collecting iPhone address books, deletes them

Path, the social networking service and app for iOS and Android users that Neowin reviewed quite favorably in December 2011, has now run into a bit of a PR storm.

A few days ago, a software developer posted word on his blog site that Path's app was sending his entire iPhone address book to Path's servers. This kind of information was not disclosed by Path beforehand and there was never an option to opt out of this feature.

Path CEO Dave Morin posted up a response to the software developer's blog site that admitted the app did indeed send that information to the company's servers, saying that the feature was put in place " ... to help the user find and connect to their friends and family on Path quickly and efficiently as well as to notify them when friends and family join Path. Nothing more." He added that an opt in for this feature was now in the new version for Android and would be put in the iOS app update.

That wasn't enough to stop the firestorm of Path users who felt that their privacy was being violated by Path's actions. In a blog post today on Path's web site, Morin finally apologized, saying simply, "We make a mistake." He added:

We believe you should have control when it comes to sharing your personal information. We also believe that actions speak louder than words. So, as a clear signal of our commitment to your privacy, we’ve deleted the entire collection of user uploaded contact information from our servers. Your trust matters to us and we want you to feel completely in control of your information on Path.

He added that the new 2.0.6 iOS version of the Path app is now available and does indeed allow the user to opt in or opt out of the date collecting feature.

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26 Comments

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There is cause for concern, but Google tells you UPFRONT that they do this with your contacts on GMail and your Android, and freely admit they USE your contact information in both data mining and selling advertising to 'like minded' people, so your 'targeted' advertising is influenced by the information they have on the people in your contact list.

So what is the big deal?

Everyone seems to think Google is mega awesome, so why be so hard on another company that has done 'less' with your contacts?

Weird, people have no problem signing up and using Gmail or an Android phone, yet this stuff gives them cause for concern.

I love the double standard on this, if this was an Android app sending phone contact info then it would be blamed squarely on Google and they would make up some rubbish about Android being not secure or something BUT this is an iPhone app so they distance Apple as to try and make them not look bad and blame the developer.

sam232 said,
I love the double standard on this, if this was an Android app sending phone contact info then it would be blamed squarely on Google and they would make up some rubbish about Android being not secure or something BUT this is an iPhone app so they distance Apple as to try and make them not look bad and blame the developer.

Path, the social networking service and app for iOS and Android users ...

Any way this is stupid as other applications the send notifications when a friend joins the app, doesn't copy/transmit users address books (WhatsApp, Tango, Viber.....and many others.

sam232 said,
I love the double standard on this, if this was an Android app sending phone contact info then it would be blamed squarely on Google and they would make up some rubbish about Android being not secure or something BUT this is an iPhone app so they distance Apple as to try and make them not look bad and blame the developer.

Why, there is no need to blame Google, they are already collecting and using your contact list.

This isn't tinfoil or hyperbole, they freely admit to it, and make users agree to it when creating your Gmail account (which your Android requires).

Problem is most people have not been in the position of a high value company that Google is trying to sell their services to, as they again feature their 'data mining/trend/association' technology to explain how a company's advertisements will not only target just the people that have 'searches' and email conversations that would flag them as a good candidate, but also the associated contacts of that user from their contact list.

Somehow people 'still' see Google as a company of the people, but they make their money from selling INFORMATION on YOU and TRENDS of millions of people that you are a part.

Why are they 'excused' or defended like some type of hero to people?

Was it the 'stance' they took against the US government 5 or 6 years ago about giving up information? People somehow missed that it wasn't about PROTECTING users, it was about Google not wanting to hand over the information for FREE.

After the legal stuff kind of left the news, Google started handing things over to the US Government, as long as they were paid for it, as they continue to do. (Even small town law enforcement can acquire information from Google, as long as they pay for it.) Google wasn't protecting user information, they were wanting to make money off it, just like they do when any company wants to buy access to the information.

(Google doesn't make money off of Android or GMail or any of their services directly, this is why they are free. Just like a drug dealer giving out free crack. It is the information from the users they get access to that has made them incredibly wealthy. Android is just another mechanism to gather data and information.

It isn't because they get licensing, and it isn't because they 'invented' Android, as they just bought the pieces and slapped them together. And it is isn't because Android is an awesome uber OS, as it fails to meet the OS standards of both security and base functionality that were considered 'baseline' in the late 80s. Even Windows 3.0 could properly manage memory and multi-task and virtualize RAM, all of which Android's Dalvik has serious issues with, as this is handled in the upper OS layer, not the Linux kernel as users 'expect' or 'assume'.

A first year CIS student would go, 'holy freaking cow' over Google systemic level of information acquisition, as information is power and money. CIS students learn that treating information and data with a high level of care and security is fundamental to the basis of information systems, that Google completely violates.

Edited by thenetavenger, Feb 9 2012, 2:23pm :

This is why the US needs proper and decent Privacy legislation when clearly existing law and safe harbor agreements do not work. If this business was based in Australia, Path would be fined and prosecuted for breach of Privacy Act.

virtorio said,
Nice to see a company actually admit a mistake and then action it, quickly.

Don't worry - they backed them up before deleting...

virtorio said,
Nice to see a company actually admit a mistake and then action it, quickly.

There always seems to be an apology after the known issue. ie. "Woops we are sorry you caught us".

virtorio said,
Nice to see a company actually admit a mistake and then action it, quickly.

Sure, it works nicely... Do it first, apologia afterwards ( if we get caught ). All fine, 'cause there are dudes like you who find it sweet, splendid when a company apologises.

I was making a comment on the fact they didn't spend time trying to deny it, then time trying to defend it and then take 6 months to fix it.

Maybe you'd all prefer that, because it's more fun to bitch and moan right?

virtorio said,
Nice to see a company actually admit a mistake and then action it, quickly.

It's always easier to say sorry than to ask for permission - Charlie Harper

lflashl said,

It's always easier to say sorry than to ask for permission - Charlie Harper

And yet so many companies don't, which is my whole point.

virtorio said,
And yet so many companies don't, which is my whole point.

lol are you for real. This company got busted, and now they are acting all sorry. Companies should be slammed for doing things like this.

Simon- said,
Do you mean Soul? I suppose that telemarketers like shoes too.

Soul is it, lol oh well, they can't sell to fish on the bottom of the sea. haha