iOS is a Security Vampire

I’m sorry, but what Path did is (in some jurisdictions, such as my own) arguably a criminal offence. Want to know what they’ve been up to?

When developer Arun Thampi started looking for a way to port photo and journaling software Path to Mac OS X, he noticed some curious data being sent from the Path iPhone app to the company’s servers. Looking closer, he realized that the app was actually collecting his entire address book — including full names, email addresses, and phone numbers — and uploading it to the central Path service. What’s more, the app hadn’t notified him that it would be collecting the information.

Path CEO Dave Morin responded quickly with an apology, saying that “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 also said that the lack of opt-in was an iOS-specific problem that would be fixed by the end of the week. [emphasis added]

No: this isn’t an ‘iOS-specific problem’ it’s an ‘iOS lacks an appropriate security model and so we chose to abuse it problem’. I cannot, for the life of me, believe that Apple is willing to let developers access the contact book – with all of its attendant private data – without ever notifying the end user. Path should be tarred, feathered, and legally punished. This wasn’t an ‘accident’ but a deliberate decision, and there should be severe consequences for it.

Also: while the Verge author writes:

Thampi doesn’t think Path is doing anything untoward with the data, and many users don’t have a problem with Path keeping some record of address book contacts.

I think that this misses a broader point. You should not be able to disclose mass amounts of other people’s personal information without their consent. When I provide key contact information it is for an individual’s usage, not for them to share my information with a series of corporate actors to do whatever those actors want with it. The notion that a corporation would be so bold as to steal this personal information to use for their own purposes is absolutely, inexcusably, wrong.

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