The tech journalists don’t seem all that eager to look at the dozens of social mobile apps that still download your address book information from your phone (because they haven’t been able to push their update yet). As I’ve said over and over, the fact that Path did this was annoying, but in my opinion not that big of a deal. Still, the company has been eviscerated.
At some point the press, or someone, will go to the trouble of looking at all the apps and figuring out who’s doing this. I’ll just kick things off by pointing out that one of the most popular social apps, Foursquare, is definitely part of this party.
The surface evidence is clear – I created a new foursquare account on my iPhone and it immediately told me that 402 of my contacts were on Foursquare and suggested I connect with them.
There are theoretical (but highly unlikely) ways Foursquare could connect me with them without uploading my contacts, but it’s highly unlikely. So a developer I know went to the trouble to proxy the iPhone through Charles Proxy to sniff the traffic. It showed a substantial amount of data being uploaded to Foursquare from the phone immediately before the screen above was shown with contact information. We perused that data, and it included email addresses and phone numbers for everyone in the phone contacts.
Does this excuse Path? No. But unlike Foursquare and others, (the relatively tiny) Path was proactively changing this before the press hit, which is why their updated app was available and approved the day after the initial stories. That means Path is significantly less evil than Foursquare. And Foursquare is, in my opinion, not evil at all.
My recommendation to Foursquare is exactly the same as it was for Path – just nuke all the data and move on. Just because everyone else does this doesn’t mean Foursquare and Path (two apps I love) should.
Who’s next? Let’s just pull the bandaid off and get this over with. And let’s point the blame where it should be pointed, or at least where it will do some good – at the platform which permits this. That would be Apple.
It would be awesome if the tech press changed the focus from “Path is evil” to “this needs to be fixed by Apple.” That would be one option. The other would be to just continue to scream uninformed invectives at anyone who’s trying to have an actual conversation about the issue.
Disclosure: CrunchFund is not an investor in Foursquare, but we’d sure love to be. That’s probably some kind of conflict of interest.