Facebook Will Ask Permission Before Sharing Address BookYesterday we detailed the frightening sharing of pretty much your phone’s entire address book with any app that asked for it. Today, Apple has done the right thing and announced that it will make it so that apps will ask your permission before they download your entire address book. Which, you know, is only right.
This move might break many apps. There are a surprising number of apps that transfer your address book to third parties. And every single one will need to update to bring themselves into compliance with Apple’s new rules.
The whole debacle started with Path, a small social networking startup. It had successfully generated some buzz and was growing in popularity when people found out that their address books were being copied. People then freaked out. Since then, it has been revealed that Path was hardly alone. Pretty much every major social networking app did it, ostensibly for the purpose of seeing which of your friends were already using the service. Sites trotted out different defenses for their actions. One claimed that they didn’t store the data, but that was rendered moot by them transmitting the data unencrypted. A few of them mentioned what they were doing in prompts, but most were completely silent.
Since then, several companies have made moves to make it more obvious what they are doing, with Yelp and Instagram leading the charge. Both companies put in descriptive text explaining why they were looking at your address book, and letting the user know everything is encrypted.
It is a good thing that Apple is rectifying this mistake. It’s what the company needed to do. But the fact remains that this never should have been a problem to begin with. The company never should have made it so easy for an app to take your data.