Path, the private social network, has had somewhat of a rocky start, to put it mildly.
Just as it seemingly recovered from a privacy scandal which also affected Apple and resulted in tighter iOS privacy controls, reports are surfacing alleging the startup is spamming users’ address book contacts with unwanted phone calls and text messages, even after they uninstalled the software from their devices.
Path immediately crafted a non-response confirming an unknown portion of its installed base did fall victim to a glitch in the system…
Digital marketer Stephen Kenwright first complained about the issue on Twitter.
@pathservice why are you texting everyone in my phonebook at 6am?
— Stephen Kenwright (@stekenwright) April 30, 2013
Having downloaded Path to his device a few days ago, Kenwright uninstalled it and went to bed. The following day, Kenwright wakes up to a massive spam where Path texted and robocalled a bunch of his address book contacts, including his grandparents.
Kenwright then publicized his complaints in a post over at his personal blog titled “The antisocial network: Path texts my entire phonebook at 6am”.
When I was asked about inviting people to Path as I installed the app I said no, and without entering much in the way of personal information Path decided to text my entire phone book for me the day AFTER I uninstalled it from my Android.
“Having uninstalled the app yesterday when I decided it wasn’t for me, I’m going to go ahead and assume that Path took this data out of my phonebook sometime during the half hour I had it installed,” Kenwright wrote.
Path responded on Twitter, urging Kenwright to fill out a help form on its web site.
— Path Service (@PathService) April 30, 2013
The Verge speculates these robocalls might have been an unintended consequence because extra carrier services turn text messages to landlines into phone calls.
This whole brouhaha stems from Path’s sign-up process which wants to trick people into sending mass invitations to a user’s Facebook friends.
By default, Path assumes you want to send a message to all your Facebook friends, displaying a list with every name checked. The user must then tap “unselect all,” or Path will text a signup link to every friend.
Path implemented the “feature” in the major March 6 update which also brought out private messaging, a built-in digital content shop and a bunch of other new capabilities.
Asked whether Path will update the sign-up page to say “Select All” instead of “Unselect All,” a Path representative rather cryptically responded that it’s “certainly something we’re thinking about, but nothing really to report yet.”
However, Path may want to reconsider its stance and act fast.
The startup has already fallen out of favor with U.S. regulators, having recently agreed with The United States Federal Trade Commission to pay a $800,000 fine for “collecting kids’ personal information without their parents’ consent”.
According to the founder and CEO Dave Morin, Path yesterday reported ten million users registered with the service. After turning down a $100 million offer from Google, Path is now adding more than a million users per week and has recently been valued just north of $250 million.
The private social network is limited to just 150 friends and family and is available free on iOS, Android and on the web.
Did Path spam your grandparents?