If you are avoiding Facebook or Twitter, one of the reasons might be its extreme openness or concerns about privacy. Path, the social networking service for mobile devices launched in 2010, can be a good alternative. Path is a ‘micro-networking service’ that allows users to share photos and messages in the limited boundary of closer friends and family. Last November, Path’s CEO Dave Morin stressed the Path’s ability on keeping user’s personal information securely. But just 3 months later, his announcement turned out to be a lie.
On February 8th, Developer Arun Thampi in Singapore pointed out that Path uploaded the contents of an iPhone user’s address book without permission. Morin promptly apologized to users on his blog, explaining that Path uses the data to improve the function of friend suggestions that quickly notifies users when their friends join Path. Now the company has deleted its entire contact data, and has updated its apps to make the contact-sharing an opt-in affair. It seems contradicting to the initial goal of Path, which was to maintain a high quality of privacy for users.
I was surprised to discover that iOS app developers commonly send a user’s address book without permission and many companies already have user’s data for future reference. If you are familiar with smartphone technology or how the apps work, this might be nothing to be shocked. However, it is quite new to me as one of very ordinary smartphone users. Who would be happily willing to download an app if it collects my private data secretly? No one will support apps that break trust between service providers and users even if a breach of the promise does not cause a serious effect. Apps developers and companies should move forward in transparency of the process of dealing with a user’s data.