Last week, 13 individuals targeted 18 mobile app makers accused of automatically uploading user address books without permission with a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas. The suit, which seeks class action status, has the following defendants: Apple, Beluga, Burbn, Chillingo, Electronic Arts, Facebook, Foodspotting, Foursquare Labs, Gowalla, Hipster, Instagram, Kik Hipster, LinkedIn, Path, Rovio Mobile, Twitter, Yelp, and ZeptoLab UK.
Here's an excerpt from the lawsuit:
Literally billions of contacts from the address books of tens of millions of unsuspecting wireless mobile device owners have now been accessed and stolen. The surreptitious data uploads—occurring over both cellular networks and open, public wireless access nodes in homes, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, stores and businesses all across the nation—have, quite literally, turned the address book owners’ wireless mobile devices into mobile radio beacons broadcasting and publicly exposing the unsuspecting device owner’s address book data to the world.
On information and belief, Facebook has acquired the companies that formerly owned the Gowalla App (i.e., Defendant Gowalla Incorporated) and the Beluga App and/or those companies’ assets and personnel and is the successor-in-interest to each of those companies.
CNET, which first covered the lawsuit, says Kik, Path, and Twitter declined to comment. I contacted Facebook, and Menlo Park also declined to comment.
"Yes, we've seen the suit," a LinkedIn spokesperson said in a statement. "It's baffling, because quite simply, our mobile apps do not do what is alleged in the suit." It would not surprise me if Facebook and others end up in the same boat.
This all started with the Path fiasco last month (see links below). It was discovered that Path was uploading contact information from smartphones to its servers. This resulted in a huge uproar from the technology industry. Path apologized and deleted "the entire collection of user uploaded contact information" from its servers. This in turn led to Apple and others being involved.
- Path discovered phoning home with your address book
- I'm getting off the Path until they delete ALL the data and start over
- Critical Path: Here's how Path can save itself, if it acts fast
- Path issues apology; promises to delete contact info
- Path CEO Dave Morin: Mea Culpa
- Apple doesn’t enforce its own Address Book policy