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Path app under fire for copying address books

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Path, the company behind an eponymous journal app, is under fire after a blogger discovered that the app was sending all of a user’s contact information to the company.

Developer Arun Thampi first pointed out the behind-the-scenes uploading in a blog post Wednesday, after discovering that his phone’s entire address book, including full names and e-mail addresses, was being sent to the company without his explicit consent.

Path, which is kind of a combination of Facebook, Foursquare and Color, lets users share what they’re doing with a select group of friends. The app gives users the option to find friends on the app through contacts or their Facebook network. The app retains all contact information, Path said, in order to quickly notify users when people they know join Path.

“We actually think this is an important conversation and take this very seriously,” wrote Path co-founder and CEO Dave Morin on Thampi’s blog post. “We upload the address book to our servers in order to help the user find and connect to their friends and family on Path quickly and efficiently as well as to notify them when friends and family join Path. Nothing more.”

He went on to say that it had already identified the non-disclosure as a problem and rolled out the feature as an opt-in for Android and is working on putting that option in the iOS app as well.

Even with an explicit apology and explanation, however, Path’s users are making it known that they’re not pleased about the changes. Several one-star reviews have cropped up on Path’s Apple App Store saying that they liked the app until they found about the address book issue.

Path is learning what several app and social networking companies have learned about user privacy: transparency is key.

It’s no shock that a social networking app that suggests friends would want to take a peek at your address book. But the fact that Path didn’t tell users that the data was being uploaded is at the heart of the backlash. Goodness knows that the average social media user is open to sharing information; the point is that users like to have choice over what information they share.

Users that want Path to delete their data can e-mail the company at , Morin said in a comment on Thampi’s post.

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