Path, privacy and tech journalism: let’s not lose the real stories in the noise
Late last night I stumbled across a freshly written post critical of the cynicism of and personal attacks that are a standard facet of the tech industry. Written by Michael Arrington, it implores the industry to be better than the current level of discourse being exemplified by Dan Lyons and MG Siegler.
Now, nothing is less interesting to outsiders than industry navel-gazing, but Arrington has a point. The omnipresent noise of the tech echo chamber is overshadowing some very important stories related to Path that should be investigated and addressed for the health of the industry. As a comment to Arrington’s post, I highlighted what I thought were the important stories that aren’t getting the attention they deserve. I’ve expanded upon those comments below, but before you read them, you catch up on the below posts (don’t worry, I’ll wait):
Disruptions: So Many Apologies, So Much Data Mining
I’M SO, SO SORRY. HERE’S MY BELLY. NOW PLEASE MOVE ON.
Content Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Drink
Hit men, click whores, and paid apologists: Welcome to the Silicon Cesspool
Paris Lemon and the No Good, Very Bad Day
- In his New York Times piece, Nick Bilton makes a great point that there are serious ramifications to the ubiquity with which mobile apps/startups are playing with personal privacy, data and transparency. Ramifications that extend beyond the average consumer recognizing that they are conceding the monetization or their personal data in exchange for ‘free’ services. Path and apps like it may not be trying to ‘kill Egyptian dissidents’, as Arrington put it, but in an information age, personal data and privacy are important and should be protected.
- Michael Arrington has repeatedly made a great point that people need to pay more attention to Apple and the inconsistencies to their API access – for example, why they force users for permission to LBS data but not personal contact data. That being said, ‘everybody’s doing it’ or ‘everybody can do it’ isn’t a justifiable excuse for any tech company. Also, posts have been written showing that Path’s methodology for grabbing the contact information was “unnecessary and even lazy” despite its intentions to provide a better service for its users. Hipster, which also got its hand caught in the contact information cookie jar, has called for a privacy summit, and our very own Jeff Bacon will be publishing a post tomorrow outlining a minimum viable product checklist for data privacy.
- Whatever Dave Lyons personal issues with MG Siegler, and despite the nasty attacks he made, his post raises some valid concerns about the intersection of tech startups and the people that cover them. The CrunchFund/Pando Daily model is new territory for the industry, and the (now formal) relationships between the people that build the apps, the people that fund the apps, and the people that cover both requires objective and prolonged investigation for the health of the industry. I’m not saying Arrington or anyone else has anything but the best of intentions, but they also should know better than to expect us to take them purely at their word. This need for transparency and good journalism is underscored when, after an impassioned plea for us all to be better, Arrington uses his pulpit a day later to publish a post with the intent of reducing the focus on Path (which CrunchFund is an investor in) by indicting Foursquare (which CrunchFund is not an investor, but would like to be) for doing the same thing (they’re not, by the way, and have been fairly open with how they handle personal information). Sometimes the best of intentions can be confused by a lack of perspective and/or distance.
These are the important stories that UNTETHER will try to focus on and push forward with good copy and video. For the benefit of our readers, we’ll try to ignore the rest.