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Mobile social networking app Path settles with FTC for $800,000

February 01, 2013|By Jessica Guynn
  • The Federal Trade Commission has reached an agreement with Path to settle charges over the app-maker's violation of its terms of service.
The Federal Trade Commission has reached an agreement with Path to settle… (Mladen Antonov / AFP / Getty…)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mobile social networking app Path has settled Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived users by collecting personal information from their mobile address books without their knowledge or permission.

The San Francisco company will also pay $800,000 for illegally collecting kids’ personal information without parents’ consent, the FTC said Friday.

Path must also establish a privacy program and obtain independent privacy assessments every other year for the next 20 years, according to the settlement.

“This settlement with Path shows that no matter what new technologies emerge, the agency will continue to safeguard the privacy of Americans,” said outgoing FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. 

Path Chief Executive Dave Morin apologized last February for uploading iPhone address books to Path servers.

"We believe you should have control when it comes to sharing your personal information," Morin said at the time. "We also believe that actions speak louder than words. So, as a clear signal of our commitment to your privacy, we’ve deleted the entire collection of user-uploaded contact information from our servers. Your trust matters to us and we want you to feel completely in control of your information on Path."

Path is a mobile social networking app that lets users share “moments” in their lives with a social circle of up to 150 friends.

The FTC claimed that Path’s iPhone app did not give consumers a choice of how their personal information was treated and then automatically collected and stored personal information from mobile address books including names, addresses, phone numbers, Facebook and Twitter user names and birthdates.

Path’s privacy policy deceived consumers by saying that it only collected information such as IP address and browser type, the complaint said.

Further, Path collected personal information from about 3,000 children under the age of 13 without their parents’ permission, the FTC said. Federal law requires online services to notify parents and get their permission before collecting that information.

Path put up a blog post to comment on the settlement.

“There was a period of time where our system was not automatically rejecting people who indicated that they were under 13,” it said. “It wasn’t until we gave our account verification system a second look that we realized there was a problem.”

"We hope our experience can help others as a reminder to be cautious and diligent," it continued. "Throughout this experience and now, we stand by our number one commitment to serve our users first."


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