Path updates, anonymizes contact data to protect user privacy

On the road to redemption, social app maker Path is releasing version 2.1.1 of its mobile app and will now protect the privacy of its users by hashing user contact data.

In February, private social network Path was caught with its hand in the contacts cookie jar and was found to be uploading members’ address book data to its servers. The company became the poster child of a social app data privacy scandal that attracted the ire of Congress.

Path, rumored to be closing a $20 million round of funding, now hopes it can wash away the stain with a far more righteous approach to friend-finding.

“With the release of Path 2.1.1, we are enhancing our security by hashing user contact data so that it is anonymized,” Path said in a blog post Monday. “This means last names, phone numbers, email addresses, Twitter handles and Facebook IDs. We collect this data to connect you with those who are closest to you.”

The hash approach, as VentureBeat detailed in a post on apps accessing data, is a an alternative to sending and storing private user data. A company can compare hashes, rather than the full text of phone numbers and email addresses, to make friend matches without needing to “see” the actual names, numbers, or email address of members’ contacts.

“This enabled us to implement the same ‘Find Friends’ functionality that so many apps nowadays use without compromising the privacy of the address book,” Forkly co-founder and hash system proponent Martin May said at the time of the Path scandal. “It’s pretty easy to replicate … It’s not very complicated,” May told VentureBeat.

“We hope our actions set a new standard in this field as we strive to serve you, our users, first,” Path said.

Photo credit: B Tai/Flickr


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