Privacy vs. Social Media

Lately, privacy has become a huge topic of concern for the industry, particularly when it comes to mobile devices. Thirteen individuals have filed a lawsuit against more than a dozen mobile app makers for automatically uploading user address books without their permission.

The defendants in the suit are: Path, Twitter, Apple, Facebook, Beluga, Yelp, Burbn, Instagram, Foursquare Labs, Gowalla, Foodspotting, Hipster, LinkedIn, Rovio Mobile, ZeptoLab UK, Chillingo, Electronic Arts, and Kik.

The lawsuit was prompted by reports last month that Path and a few other apps were uploading address books from users without their permission when the users were prompted to find friends to connect with. The companies claimed they weren’t doing anything wrong and figured that the users would have realized that access to contact lists were needed to provide that functionality. The news prompted a public backlash, despite the fact that Path, Apple, and others promised to fix the problem.

Is it ok for mobile app makers to automatically upload users’ address books or other data on their mobile devices?

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5 thoughts on “Privacy vs. Social Media

  1. I don’t think it’s right for them to upload your address book without permission. Like when you’re prompted to let an app or website know where you’re located in order to provide location services, you should be prompted for permission if something wants to access your address book. I don’t whether the sites are then sharing your contacts info with anyone else, but that also would be wrong.

  2. From a perspective of users, app developers are supposed to clarify the rules for using address books or other personal info, showing great attention to users’ needs and privacy. Users have a right to know how and why their data would be uploaded and used.

  3. Most users do care about privacy. It seems that users are more sensitive to their personal information being available online and are more likely to take positive steps to address it. I don’t think it’s ok for mobile app makers to automatically upload users’ address books. Maybe mobile apps should also set different privacy setting levels for users to choose like what Facebook did so that users could take more initiatives.

  4. I usually fall on the side of ‘buyer beware,’ but in this instance, if the apps did not specifically state they would be accessing information from address books, then I have to agree with their complaint.
    Assumption is not a defense for the app makers.

  5. Would this be similar to the issue whether it’s twitter or uses own those tweets?
    I think it’s reasonable and necessary for any app business to ask permission of getting access to users’ any kind of personal information. But still, it’s the users’ own responsibility to take risks of such behavior.
    However, there’s is no such thing that those apps can upload users’ address book without permission even if they weren’t doing anything wrong with it, as they claimed.

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