How to stop apps like Path from stealing your contacts

Path caused quite a stir last week when it was discovered that the app secretly transmitted users’ entire contact lists to its servers. Without giving users the option to approve the transfer or even giving an indication that this data was being sent, Path was basically stealing personal data. The company’s CEO would later apologize and a recent update makes the process more transparent, but the damage has been done and the company’s image is tarnished. Apple is known for having strict guidelines by which iOS apps are judged before being allowed in the App Store, but apparently the theft of user data falls within those guidelines. Luckily for iPhone users, one developer decided to take matters into his own hands. Read on for more.

IOS developer Ryan Petrich has created a simple utility called ContactPrivacy that has just one function: notify users when an app is about to upload contacts to its servers. Path, of course, is just one of a number of apps that takes possession of your contact list following installation, and Petrich’s utility makes the process transparent when Apple and developers do not.

In the event an app installed on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch attempts to upload a user’s contact list, ContactPrivacy will block the transfer and pop up a warning. Users will then have the option to allow the app to transmit their contacts, or they can opt to block the transfer.

While ContactPrivacy is completely free to users, there is of course a catch. In order to be effective, this tweak must make use of OS functions that are off limits according to Apple’s developer guidelines — yes, developers can steal your private data but they can’t warn you when an app is about to do so. As a result, ContactPrivacy is only available to users who first jailbreak their devices. Thanks to the combined efforts of the iPhone Dev Team, the Chronic Dev Team and pod2g, every iOS device can now be jailbroken very easily.

ContactPrivacy is available for free and can be found by searching the name of the app in Cydia once a device has been jailbroken.

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