Tons Of Companies Sued In Class Action Lawsuit Over Uploading Phone Addressbooks

from the class-actions-in-action dept

There was some controversy a month or so ago, when it came out that app maker Path was secretly uploading your entire address book to its servers. The company apologized and deleted all the data. Of course, pretty quickly, people realized that lots of apps do this, if you allow the app to search your address book to see who else you know is already using the service. The way they do this is to upload your address book. I would have thought this was, well, obvious, but not everyone seemed to think so (it's also why I never use that feature). Either way, lots of apps quickly changed either how they work or how they explain what happens with that feature.

But, of course, in our litigious society, that's not going to stop the class action lawsuits from being filed. In a 152 page document, a class action lawsuit has been filed against pretty much every big name company in the space:
Path, Inc., Twitter, Inc., Apple, Inc., Facebook, Inc., Beluga, Inc. ., Yelp! Inc., Burbn, Inc., Instagram, Inc., Foursquare Labs, Inc., Gowalla Incorporated, Foodspotting, Inc., Hipster, Inc., LinkedIn Corporation, Rovio Mobile Oy, ZeptoLab UK Limited aka ZeptoLab, Chillingo Ltd., Electronic Arts Inc., and Kik Interactive, Inc.,
The lawsuit kicks off by quoting Robert Fulghum's "All I really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten," saying, "Don't take things that aren't yours." Of course, as with many such class actions, this one is all about getting the lawyers paid. This isn't to say that I think the actions in uploading the address books were ok, but worth a lawsuit? Seems a bit extreme. It seems that the public pressure about all of this has caused pretty much all of these companies to change how they work, and it's unlikely any real significant "harm" came from this.

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  1. icon
    Yakko Warner (profile), 21 Mar 2012 @ 8:42am

    The way some do it could count as a TOS violation

    I was "invited" to join a gaming site called PlayFire.com. During the sign-up process, their site asked me for my Windows Live ID and password, so they could invite my friends to the site. That's how I got the invite in the first place -- someone created an account on their site, in the process giving them their username and password, with which PlayFire logged in as my friend and sent messages to all her friends.

    I saw that form and closed my browser. Giving your username and password to some third party is a very basic "NO" when it comes to security.

    LinkedIn lets you "find friends" on a variety of networks. If you use Hotmail or Yahoo, their app takes you to that provider's site to log in and explicitly grant access to LinkedIn. (I think one of them lets you select specific contacts to share, and the other lets you set a time limit on the access; both of them send you a link you can use to immediately revoke LinkedIn's access to your address book.)

    If you choose Gmail, however, LinkedIn asks for your Google login and password in a form on LinkedIn's site, so it can log in as you to get your contacts.

    I presume this is because Hotmail and Yahoo provide an API for this, and Google does not (or LinkedIn hasn't implemented it yet). [Note this is based on my trying it out a year or so ago; things may have changed since then.]

    No site should ever directly ask for your login credentials to another site. That's just asking for trouble.

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