Path Fined By FTC For Illegally Collecting Information From Children

path-app

The long saga of Path’s collection of personal information from its users seems to have finally come to a conclusion. The FTC has settled with Path for collecting address book information from its users without consent. But, the real kick in the backside was an $800,000 fine the FTC ordered Path to pay for illegally collecting information from Children without parental consent.

From the FTC ruling published online:

“The operator of the Path social networking app has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived users by collecting personal information from their mobile device address books without their knowledge and consent. The settlement requires Path, Inc. to establish a comprehensive privacy program and to obtain independent privacy assessments every other year for the next 20 years. The company also will pay $800,000 to settle charges that it illegally collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent.”

Long story short, the FTC found Path to be intentionally deceptive about its information collecting. The company’s privacy policy only stated that it collected “operating system, browser type, address of referring site, and site activity information,” when in reality, Path was collecting first names, last names, phone numbers, and other information from customers’ address books.

Long ago Path updated its app to provide notifications about its intentions and they’ve stopped pilfering address books of their customers. That, however, isn’t the case for a large majority of apps on various app stores for various handset vendors. It’s good to remember that if it’s a free app, there’s probably a good chance you’re paying for the service with your personal information in one way or another.

Update: Path has issued a statement on the ruling.  Here’s some more information from them on what happened with the collection of information from children:

“As you may know, we ask users’ their birthdays during the process of creating an account. However, there was a period of time where our system was not automatically rejecting people who indicated that they were under 13. Before the FTC reached out to us, we discovered and fixed this sign-up process qualification, and took further action by suspending any under age accounts that had mistakenly been allowed to be created.”

Either way, this is the second major strike against the company. Considering the amount of funding this company rakes in according to Crunchbase, this shouldn’t keep happening. Two major privacy issues in one year kind of tells you all you need to know about social media websites and their commitments to keeping your privacy these days.  It’s starting to sound like it’s easier for companies to issue apologies than it is for them to actually ensure this kind of thing stops happening.  This crap needs to stop happening. It’s pretty simple.

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