In a nutshell: Path, a facebook-like social networking app, recently found themselves in hot water after a programmer discovered they’re uploading your entire address book to their Web servers when you use it. Mike Arrington’s proposed solution is they should “nuke” all their data (and as disclosure, he’s an investor in the company). My initial reaction is this is absolutely correct, but doesn’t necessarily address my real concern – moving forward, can I actually decide to trust Path or not?
I am in the “no photos of my kids on Facebook” camp. Why? Because Facebook has demonstrated a fairly deliberate motive to not keep my data private. The company actually believes privacy is “Dead” so why would they even care about this kind of a thing? They don’t, and that’s their decision, and since I think privacy is alive and well, I make the (easy) choice not to share anything about my children there (for so many reasons, but here’s one if you need it). Enter Path.
When I first tried Path (and by the way, it’s one of the most beautiful apps I’ve seen for my iPhone), it seemed fairly clear they were pretty dedicated to privacy and your “real” social network. Initially you were limited to 50 friends, and all sharing happened within the confines of the app itself.
Now, the 50 friends limit is up to 150, the app enables sharing to Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms, and, lo and behold, there’s a privacy fail.
One can quickly look back to Facebook and say “privacy fail = no big deal”, unless, of course, your value proposition is around privacy!
As they say, it takes a lifetime to build trust, and mere moments to utterly destroy it.
Path is at a crossroads. They must decide what they are, and what their stance on privacy is, and they must do it imminently. If they want to be “the social network you can trust”, they have that opportunity. But they are on the verge of squandering it. Which leaves them as “the social network that’s not Facebook or Google+” and in that mode, I can’t imagine them doing more than just eking it out if they continue down this… wait for it… path.
I’d love to see Dave Morin (Path’s CEO) use this moment to step up, make a public statement on what the company’s vision is and what they stand for. I for one hope they don’t choose… poorly.