Published in Editorials

Path is not the only app that has access to contact list data...

by on15 February 2012 1902 times

broken-lockA couple of weeks ago there was an uproar over the data collection practices of the iPhone social networking app Path. This app was intended to allow users to have a more intimate social networking experience. Well like an intimate partner they appear to have been going through some of their users personal information. In fact Path was requesting and uploading users contacts lists; including phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses, and anything else that was attached to the contact in question (there is a lot you can put in a contact entry).

However, this issue made more than a few people ask the question “what else is accessing or using my personal data” To put it rather bluntly; a lot of apps for both iOS and Android have access to and pull data from your Contacts List. Facebook, Myspace, Google+, Lookout Mobile Security, Gmail (on Android) and many others can access your address listing. In fact Facebook tries to sync up your existing contacts with your Facebook contacts every time you add a new friend.  We were not shocked to see another group doing this, we are just shocked they got caught and people made it into as big of a deal as they did.

Now before you get annoyed with me let me say this; what Path did was very inappropriate. They had no right to upload that information without user consent. However, we do think that it is odd that people will let Facebook, Google and others have access to that same data and not raise a public outcry.

In fact Facebook is more intrusive than Path was. They maintain images long after they are deleted, they do not remove accounts when deleted and they continue to try and find ways to force people to expose more personal information to others using the social networking service. Even with items like the auto tagging and facial recognition there was no large scale outcry.

It seems that if you are a big name in the industry it is ok to pull this kind of stunt, but if you are a new comer you need to look out. Personally I think that any company that has access to a user’s personal data must make sure they respect that trust and not come up with ways to use it for their advantage.  Still as we move into what appears to be a greater awareness by consumers about privacy and personal data security we might see companies change, but I am sure there will always be companies that will get a free pass from the public and the agencies that are supposed to regulate them.

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Last modified on 15 February 2012
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