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Path deletes contact data, updates app

The company behind the journaling app Path announced Wednesday that it has erased all the data that it obtained from users’ address books, in a swift response to user backlash. Path announced the decision in an unequivocally apologetic blog post Wednesday afternoon titled “We are sorry.”

Path, an app that’s sort of like a combination of Facebook, Foursquare and Color lets users share what they’re doing with a select group of friends on a social news feed. The app gives users the option to find friends on the app through contacts or their Facebook network. Any contact list data, the company said, is retained only to quickly notify users when people they know join Path. But users have said that they want to be informed about the data they’re sharing first.

Dave Morin, the company’s co-founder and CEO wrote that he had heard users’ concerns loud and clear.

“Through the feedback we’ve received from all of you, we now understand that the way we had designed our ‘Add Friends’ feature was wrong,” Morin wrote. “We are deeply sorry if you were uncomfortable with how our application used your phone contacts.”

He also said that the company has also updated its iOS app to provide users the option to turn on the address book integration, and no longer uploads the data automatically. The company seems to have already been trying to work to fix the issue before the uploading was caught by developer Arun Thampi. Ahead of Thampi’s widely-circulated blog post on the subject, Path made a similar change to its Android app.

“We always transmit this and any other information you share on Path to our servers over an encrypted connection,” Morin wrote Wednesday. “It is also stored securely on our servers using industry standard firewall technology.”

It’s difficult to evaluate how a privacy flap like this could affect Path, which has about 1 million users.

Those commenting on blog posts and in app reviews on Apple’s App Store were split on whether they want to keep using the app. Some said that they felt their trust had been violated and that they would delete the app. Others applauded the company for responding so quickly, and said that the product was good enough that they would keep using it.

Related stories:

Path app under fire for copying address books

Beware of privacy policies: Time to clean up your digital footprint

Facebook FAQ: Privacy settlement reached with FTC

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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