Guest post by Michael Schechter
We spend so much time talking about when the companies we know and love make a mistake. We grab pitchforks, jump to our blogs and decree our anger to the world, usually within 24 hours, if not 24 minutes, of the offense.
Last Wednesday, it was social networking app Path’s day in the hot seat.
The crime: in order to make it easier to find our friends, they were taking the address books on our cell phones and uploading it onto their servers.
Now, I’m not trying to defend their actions. This shouldn’t happen, or at least it shouldn’t happen without our knowledge. Apparently there are better ways to handle this, as Matt Gemmell explained in the post that initially revealed the privacy breach.
There is also a ton of validity to Ben Brook’s point that:
One interesting thing that I saw floating around the web, about all this address book uploading that is happening on iOS, is this idea that an App must ask for permission to use your location, but doesn’t need to do so before it grabs everything in your address book and uploads it to their servers.
Apple needs to change this. Now.
Once again, the Internet did what the Internet does best. It got indignant and it went on the attack. And even though CEO Dave Morin immediately jumped into the conversation, his explanation only seemed to fuel the angry hordes.
I commend him for his response time, but to be honest, one look at his initial response and the subsequent apology and you can see that they were not prepared for the backlash.
Thankfully, Morin did the dangerous, yet smart thing. Both he and Path went radio silent for about 24 hours.
And as we stewed, they did everything a user could have hoped for. They took full responsibility, completely deleted all of the user information on their servers, changed the option to upload this data to opt-in and already submitted an updated version of their application to Apple.
Should they have gone about this a different way in the first place? Absolutely, but they can’t fix the past and as MG Siegler, an investor in Path and well respected tech pundit, shares:
Path wasn’t trying to gain your address book to cold call all of your friends and bug them to join Path. Nor were they going to sell this data to marketers. They weren’t even auto-friending people (which way too many apps do). It was simply to ease the connection building process by giving users good recommendations.
Here’s the other key thing: a number of your favorite social apps do the exact same thing. And some have for a very long time — for years, actually.
Giving Path and Morin the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume they weren’t trying to do anything wrong with our data.
Let’s consider that they were simply trying to use the infrastructure that Apple provided them with in order to offer the best possible experience.
Once the exact process was brought to light and they were able to see the customer reaction, they did everything in their power to make it right and they did it in a day.
I don’t think we can ask for more.
The moral of the story?
Internet, calm down and give companies a chance to respond intelligently.
Brands, startups and services, learn from Path’s response. When you screw up, apologize and fix the problem. Quickly.
Michael Schechter is the Digital Marketing Director for Honora Pearls, a company specializing in freshwater pearl jewelry. He also writes about how technology impacts our productivity, our creativity and our lives. You can connect with him over on his blog, A Better Mess, or on Twitter where he’s @MSchechter.