February 01, 2013, 12:16 PM — The maker of the Path social networking app will pay a US$800,000 civil penalty to settle U.S. Federal Trade Commission charges that it illegally collected personal information from children without parental consent, the agency said Friday.
Path has also settled FTC charges that it collected personal information from users' mobile address books without their knowledge and consent, the FTC said. The settlement requires Path to establish a comprehensive privacy program and to obtain independent privacy assessments every other year for 20 years, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said during a press conference.
Path's social-networking service allows users to keep journals and share them with a network of up to 150 friends. Users can store and share photos, journal entries, their location and the names of songs they are listening to.
The FTC, in its complaint, charged that the user interface in Path's iOS app was misleading and provided users no meaningful choice about the collection of their personal information. Path's version 2.0 provided users with three options for inviting friends, through their contacts, through Facebook or by inviting them to join Path by email or SMS. However, Path automatically collected and stored personal information from the user's mobile device address book even if the user had not selected the "find friends from your contacts" option, the FTC said.
For each contact in the user's mobile device address book, Path automatically collected and stored any available first and last names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, Facebook and Twitter user names, and dates of birth, the FTC said.
"This practice, we believe, was deceptive," Leibowitz said.
The agency also charged that Path, which collects birth date information during user registration, violated the U.S. Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting personal information from approximately 3,000 children under the age of 13 without first getting parents' consent.