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Path controversy hinges on company's privacy policy and terms of use


A controversy regarding how social media application Path handles user data recently became the latest episode to spark debate about privacy rights in an increasingly digital world.

On February 8, a blogger in Singapore, Arun Thampi, noticed that Path's iOS application was sending his entire iPhone address book to Path's servers. After Thampi wrote a post about this, Path found itself almost immediately at the center of a firestorm.

Within 24 hours of Thampi's initial blog post, Path CEO David Morin sat down with a reporter from Wired magazine and said, "We thought we were doing this the right way. It turns out, we made a mistake."

The company's primary mistake, Wired said, was that Path's privacy policy and terms of use agreement did not explicitly state it would access users' address book information.

In a blog post and interviews with media, Morin has explained that Path uses the address book information not for any unscrupulous purposes, but for its primary function, which is to selectively suggest people for users to befriend via social media. The company has deleted the address book information from its servers and has taken steps to improve transparency.

While Morin said he is confident Path will bounce back from this situation, the damage done to its reputation highlights how important it is for tech companies to have thorough, up-to-date privacy policy and terms of use agreements in place.