Yesterday, personal social network/smart journal Path was hit by a wave of controversy as a user found out the iPhone app uploaded a device’s entire Address Book (your contacts’ names, emails, phone numbers, and addresses) to the company’s servers without any kind of user consent or notice. Whilst some people claimed this is actually common practice for several iOS apps as Apple doesn’t provide native Address Book access dialogs as they do for location, the fact that Path did it was unequivocally wrong, and in spite of the Path’s CEO quickly responding to comments, the company was still called out to make the right thing, apologize, and remove all user data.
And unlike many web companies nowadays, that’s exactly what Path did. With a blog post published earlier today, Path explains that what they did was simply functional to the service’s contact matching feature, but wrong nonetheless. Path is apologizing for the mistake, and has released a new version of the app that makes the functionality opt-in for all users; they have also removed all data from their servers as many asked today.
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.
You may like Path or think it’s useless (I, for one, use it and enjoy it quite a bit), but you have to admit we don’t see companies be that honest and transparent to their users that often. In a world where we’re used to see companies hiding particular aspects of their services to their users (sometimes even paying users), it’s refreshing to see Path be an example of clarity and simplicity in communication.
What Path did was wrong, and they have paid (and will continue paying) the consequences for their mistake in bad PR. On the other hand though, Path has shown that there’s nothing wrong about admitting your errors, saying you’re sorry, and trying to turn a bad decision into a precious lesson for future endeavors.