United States v. Path, Inc., No. C13-0448 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 31, 2013).
Factual Background Edit
Path operates a social networking service that allows users to keep journals about "moments" in their life and to share that journal with a network of up to 150 friends. Through the Path app, users can upload, store, and share photos, written "thoughts," the user's location, and the names of songs to which the user is listening.
The Federal Trade Commission charged that the user interface in Path's iOS app was misleading and provided consumers no meaningful choice regarding the collection of their personal information. In version 2.0 of its app for iOS, Path offered an "Add Friends" feature to help users add new connections to their networks. The feature provided users with three options: "Find friends from your contacts"; "Find friends from Facebook"; or "Invite friends 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. 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 usernames, and dates of birth.
The agency also charged that Path, which collects birth date information during user registration, violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule by collecting personal information from approximately 3,000 children under the age of 13 without first getting parents' consent. Through its apps for both iOS and Android, as well as its website, Path enabled children to create personal journals and upload, store and share photos, written "thoughts," their precise location, and the names of songs to which the child was listening. Path version 2.0 also collected personal information from a child's address book, including full names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth and other information, where available.
- not spelling out its collection, use and disclosure policy for children's personal information;
- not providing parents with direct notice of its collection, use and disclosure policy for children's personal information; and
- not obtaining verifiable parental consent before collecting children's personal information.
Consent Order Edit
The settlement requires Path to establish a comprehensive privacy program and to obtain independent privacy assessments every other year for the next 20 years. The company also will pay $800,000 to settle charges that it illegally collected personal information from children without their parents' consent.