Is Path up to its controversial and spammy antics again? At the top of Hacker News is a blog post by marketer Stephen Kenwright, calling out Path for recently bombarding its users with a finicky strategy to lure its their friends of friends into using the service. The FTC cracked down on Path’s last privacy violation with an $800,000 fine, but judging from the reports of many users, Path might have either forgotten or found a loophole around the FTC’s conditions.
Kenwright writes that after signing up for Path, he’s unknowingly been bombarding his contacts with phone calls (text messages are read out loud when they’re delivered in the U.K. where Kenwright is based) and SMS messages to check out his Path photos – and unfortunately these messages have been delivered at every hour, included in the dead of night. The interesting clincher, according to Kenwright, is that he hasn’t uploaded any photos for his friends and family to even look at. And all this continued happening in the early morning hours after he had removed the app from his phone.
Path’s last encounter with the FTC because of its address book uploading, though technically not illegal, flirted with being unethical. What was illegal, however, was the collection of personal info from minors – children under the age of 13 – without parental consent.
So to see the possibility of something similar happening only three months after the FTC fine was announced is rather surprising. The mobile social network reached 10 million users, and it’s still far, far away from competing with Facebook Messenger, LINE, WeChat, and Twitter, whose user base numbers in the hundreds of millions – but such tactics to grow user numbers could easily come back to haunt the network.
Kenwright says that Path got back to him after reaching out to the company, and insisted it wasn’t storing his phone’s contacts and that these messages that were sent to his friends and family were supposed to be sent within the time period that he actually had Path installed.
“Our product always checks that you’ve opted-in to share your contacts before it reaches out to those people, but we are investigating why there was a delay in doing so,” a Path spokesperson told him.
The problem is that Kenwright insists (or at least believes) that he didn’t actually opt-into sharing his contacts, nor did he have photos that he could have shared on Path in the first place.
This might have been an isolated case that affected only a handful of people, but considering Path’s track record we wouldn’t simply brush the incident off.