AirTalk for February 16, 2012

Are you being stalked…by an app?

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Hannah Johnston/Getty Images

Pressure is mounting on Twitter Inc. and other social networking companies to review their privacy guidelines after disclosures that they were digging personal contact information from users' smartphones without permission.

In today’s world, it’s nearly impossible not to invade someone’s privacy, or have your own invaded. If we’re not watching reality TV or reading the tabloids, both notorious invasions of celebrity privacy, then we’re logging onto Facebook or Google, which have both made no bones about amassing information about its users.

But now, an app for the iPhone and iPad is taking this one step further. The social networking app, called Path, automatically uploaded your address book to its servers. Ostensibly, this was done to help Path users find each other, but the intrusion was made without any prompting to the user.

While this nefarious practice is definitely intrinsic to the app itself, some of the blame is being placed on Apple. The company is known for its focus on security and its “opt-in mentality,” but none of its devices warned users that Path would be amassing data, as was the case for the Android version of Path.

Privacy experts and users are more upset about this breach of privacy than they have been by other famous examples in the past, such as Facebook and Google. But why? What makes this incident so heinous? Why was Path accessing and saving all this information? What is the solution to such breaches of privacy? Will Congress need to get involved? Will companies like Apple have to start protecting our privacy for us? Could we all use a simple wake-up call?

Guests:

Henry Waxman, Democratic Congressman, represents California’s 30th district

Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)


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