iPhone social application 'Path' under fire for uploading users' address books

A couple of weeks ago the iPhone social application Path was under fire because it was discovered that they've been uploading users' address books onto their servers without asking or telling them. Subsequently it's been revealed that this is a common practice across the entire industry:

Path's privacy problem poses questions for all social apps  http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/appsblog/2012/feb/09/path-privacy-apps

"It's not really a secret, per se, but there's a quiet understanding among many iOS app developers that it is acceptable to send a user's entire address book, without their permission, to remote servers and then store it for future reference," he wrote."

"It's common practice, and many companies likely have your address book stored in their database… I did a quick survey of 15 developers of popular iOS apps, and 13 of them told me they have a contacts database with millons of records."

This lack of comprehension that people will be freaked out by an app uploading their phone contacts to a server without telling them – or worse, comprehending it but doing it anyway – is starting to look like an endemic problem for social apps startups, and the wider social media industry.

Also, Instagram—a hugely popular photo-sharing site—starts uploading photos while you're writing the photo's caption.  If at that point you decide not to actually send the photo, it's basically already been uploaded to their servers anyway.  They say they do this so that by the time you're finished writing the photo's caption and hit send, it "feels" like it's being uploaded instantly, which customers "really like". (from an interview with the founder:  http://www.foundation.kr )

Apple's iCloud feature has the option to share your media across all your devices automatically with no prompt.  For example, if you take a picture or shoot a video with your iPhone, it will automatically upload to Apple's "cloud" (a data center somewhere) then copy over to your iPad and MacBook.


joseph's picture

thanks scott

Thanks for posting this Scott - these insidious privacy intrusions are as bad as the more explicit and overt ones being pursued by our federal government.

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