Path again under fire for spamming users with texts, robocalls

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Path is once again the subject of privacy concerns after users said the social networking application texted and called their contacts without permission.

In a blog post Tuesday, digital marketer Stephen Kenwright said he downloaded Path earlier this week, tried it out and then uninstalled it. Kenwright woke up the next morning to discover Path texted and robocalled all of the contacts stored in his smartphone, including his grandparents, encouraging them to view photos Kenwright wished to share with them. "Try explaining to your grandparents down the line that they couldn't download Path to their landline even if they wanted to (they don't want to)," he writes. "As soon as I put the phone down… it rang again. It was Path, explaining that I have some photos to share (I don't have any photos, and if I did I would have already seen them)."

The Verge notes at least two other Path users have complained about the same issue, and Reddit users voiced similar frustrations earlier this year.

Path representatives told The Verge that Kenwright fell victim to user error: The app sends mass messages with an install link to each new user's Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) friends by default. To halt the mass mailing, the user must tap the "unselect all" option. "Path is really best with friends, and we really want to help users invite the people that they care about to their Path as quickly as possible," said Nate Johnson, Path vice president of marketing, noting that the firm is mulling whether to change "unselect all" to "select all" but adding "[there's] nothing really to report yet."

Kenwright also spoke to Johnson and members of Path's PR team. "The guys at Path didn't seem to realize that UK landlines (and I'm assuming it's the same in several other countries too) read out text messages that are sent to them," Kenwright said. "They also assured me that Path doesn't collect data from my phone book, and they definitely don't have the number for my local takeaway stored somewhere--they had meant to send the messages WITHIN the half hour I was a Path member."

Path also came under fire last year for uploading users' address books to its servers without their express consent. In February 2013, the Federal Trade Commission fined the firm $800,000 for violating the privacy of its underage users. 

Path launched in 2010 as an alternative to Facebook, where founder Dave Morin originally helped develop Facebook Platform and Facebook Connect. Path limits social networks to 150 contacts, a move to guarantee users are interacting solely with the people closest to them. Path now boasts around 10 million registered users, with roughly half using the app on a monthly basis.

For more:
- read this Verge article
- read Kenwright's blog post

Related articles:
FTC fines Path $800,000 for privacy breach, issues new mobile guidelines
Report: Path closes $40 million Series B round led by Redpoint Ventures
Controversial Path app coming to Microsoft's Windows Phone
Path 2.1 integrates Nike+ GPS, adds Music Match
Amid privacy uproar, Apple promises to detail app permissions
Path admits mistake, allows users to opt out of contacts database

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