Yesterday Techcrunch’ writer Chris Velazco tried to make a big scandal out of the fact that the API of the “personal life-sharing service Path” (mind the ‘life-sharing’ adjectif Techrunch uses) calls to Path’s service to send a user’s entire address book (including full names, emails and phone numbers) as a plist.
What is exactly the problem here? It’s a ‘life-sharing’ app – the words of Techcrunch – and as Path co-founder and CEO Dave Morin correctly stated, uploading the user’s address book is meant simply to connect users with each other. It’s not a secret either as the practice is pointed out in the company’s Wikipedia entry. Techcrunch writer Velazco however says that “it’s not exactly the easiest information to come across unless you’re actively looking for it“. Easy excuse for this unnecessary mayhem though. This practice is currently part of the mobile industry’s best practices and can only lead to a frictionless use of your apps. Look at the single sign-on features as developed by Facebook.
Does mister Velazco really think that Path will abuse that data to start spaming or ringing his contacts? Then think again.
Surprising that this very Path attack comes from the same writer who doesn’t hide his preference for Google’s Android OS. Google being the one who follows you around the net knowing exactly what sites you visit and when via its superb remarketing tool. So far for privacy there (but a goldmine for marketing – I recommend it).
So let’s go a bit overboard as well. Techcrunch has been very anti-SOPA in the past few weeks, but seems to have rather SOPA-minded editors writing for it. They have a problem on board there if you look at it from a certain privacy angle. Since Velazco considers his personal data on his mobile to be untouchable (copyrighted?), I guess the description of SOPA will fit him very well: The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a United States bill introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.
Perhaps, but while the press is full of Facebook’s rather very widely interpretable privacy policies, there should be no reason to start undermining and questioning what is really just that, a best practice. A best practice in favor of the usability of an app. Witch hunts have been something in the past. We have had Edgar J. Hoover, no need for a Chris Velazco Hoover.
Both the Android and iOS app for Path will soon be opt-in only for address book data (and this has nothing to do with the current mayhem, but was in fact planned as they foresaw problems), in fact the Android app already is already opt-in only.
However, I wonder what a user prefers, having a frictionless use of an app or trying to play the saint and take the hurdle. I’m sure the first choice will prevail.
The only winner here is Path, it’s founder Dave Morin remained very calm explaining why and how. The losers? Techcrunch, Venturebeat and the likes who jumped the geek hysteria wagon. Like I said, much ado about nothing.
Add to this that I smell a very odd ‘opportunity’ from the AOL owned Techcrunch to attack a company which is funded by… former Techcrunch boss Mike Arrington. And we all know how they parted company.