When Path, a mobile social networking app that prioritizes privacy, was exposed for uploading confidential information to its servers, the company took immediate steps to appease users' concerns regarding the control they had over their own private information.
On Feb. 7, a Singapore-based app developer discovered that the Path mobile app was importing all of its users’ address book data, without notifying or requesting permission from the users. This story was picked up by major tech news outlets—which was no surprise, considering Path has placed a premium on user privacy via secure social networking. The app only allows users to add up to 150 friends to their social stream, or “path,” and even notifies users when someone else has viewed anything posted on their profile.
The Web’s reaction was very clear: This was a breach of users’ trust.
Path CEO Dave Morin quickly took the lead as the company's main spokesperson. In a post on the developer’s blog on Feb. 7, Morin explained that Path was uploading the address book to its servers “in order to help the user find and connect to their friends and family on Path quickly and efficiently.” He also said that Path had rolled out an opt-in feature for this service on Android and was in the process of doing so for the iOS.
That wasn’t enough, though. On Feb. 8, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington called for Path to “nuke” all of the address book data it had already collected from users. According to Arrington, it would “definitely send the right message to users—you can trust this company with your data.”
Path has done just that. On the same day as Arrington’s post, Morin apologized and announced that all the data that had already been uploaded to Path’s servers was immediately going to be deleted. “Your trust matters to us and we want you to feel completely in control of your information on Path,” said Morin.
Path has demonstrated that it pays attention to what is being said about the company and, more importantly, that it will go to the fullest extent possible in order to regain its users’ trust.
Follow Sahil Patel: @sizpatel
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