More Mobile App Privacy Snafus: Hipster Is Uploading Users' Address Books

In retrospect, it was probably inevitable that mobile apps would face a privacy crisis. After all, it's no secret that privacy has never been top-of-mind for tech companies, let alone mobile app developers.

Last year, a study by the Future of Privacy Forum found that just 26% of popular paid mobile apps had policies governing how they collect or share personal data. By January that proportion had improved slightly to one in three, while two out of three free apps had privacy policies in January.

But, as this week's developments have demonstrated, having a privacy policy doesn't guarantee that companies will actually respect users' privacy.

Several days ago, it emerged that the mobile social network Path was scooping up users' entire address books, notwithstanding its privacy policy.  Now it's come to light that Path wasn't alone. Hipster, another mobile social network, also was uploading users' entire address books. On top of that, Hipster reportedly sends users' address books and passwords without encryption.



In both cases, the practice was brought to light by independent developers. At this point, there's no telling how many other mobile apps will find themselves in similar -- or worse -- privacy debacles.

CEOs of both apologized yesterday. Path's David Morin promised to delete data it had collected, while the Hipster CEO, Doug Ludlow, said the company will host an app privacy summit next week. That's all well and good, but it's almost certainly too late for the companies to avoid litigation.

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