Path Fined by the FTC over Kid Privacy Issues, Just as a New Privacy Flaw Emerges

The social networking app has had a few problems with privacy

By on February 2nd, 2013 10:54 GMT

Path ran into some trouble a while ago for uploading phone contacts without asking for permission. It apologized for it and that was that, but the fiasco invited further scrutiny, scrutiny which in turn led to an $800,000, €585,000 settlement with the FTC over allowing kids younger than 13 to use the service.

Under US law, kids under 13 years old can't sign up for pretty much any service.

Technically they can, but there are some strict requirements which none of the big websites, Facebook, Google and everyone in between, wants to deal with.

That's not to say there aren't kids using Facebook or Gmail, it's just that these companies explicitly forbid it and put some stops in place to prevent it.

But Path didn't, it not only allowed kids to sign up, it collected their personal data, which it would have to do for it to work, without the consent of their parents, which is what got it into trouble.

"As you may know, we ask users’ their birthdays during the process of creating an account. However, there was a period of time where our system was not automatically rejecting people who indicated that they were under 13," Path explained.

"Before the FTC reached out to us, we discovered and fixed this sign-up process qualification, and took further action by suspending any under age accounts that had mistakenly been allowed to be created," it said.

It settled with the FTC, but it will have to undergo privacy audits for the next 20 years. Yet, in what couldn't have been worst timing, Path is now the center of yet another privacy problem.

It turns out that, even if users disable location tracking, the app still posts location info extracted from metadata in photos. It vowed to fix this though and an updated app is already available.

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