Facebook blocks rival Path's access to friends features

By blocking Path's access to Facebook's friends features, the social network may be reacting to reports of spamming by the rival service.

It appears that social network Path is the latest app to be blocked from accessing Facebook.

In recent months, the most popular online social network in the world has blocked a number of apps and services from accessing the "friends" of its members, and Path appears to be the latest to be targeted for shutoff.

Looking up friends on Facebook from Path has been blocked, TechCrunch reported Saturday. That means Path members can't send invitations to their Facebook friends to join Path or to follow them on the rival social network.

After installing a version of Path for iOS, TechHive found that the Facebook login in Path still functioned and that messages could be posted from Path to Facebook. However, the capability to find Facebook friends did not appear in Path's Find Friends option. Neither could invites be sent from Path to Facebook friends.

Facebook hasn't said yet why it's officially blocking Path, but TechCrunch suggests the move may be related to a spamming incident connected to Path last week. At that time, some Path members complained about the service messaging their contacts, urging them to join the network.

Path attributed the problem to user error. It said that people were inadvertently choosing to invite all their contacts to the network through the Find Your Friends feature in the Path app. By default, all friends are unselected in the feature, but they can be selected with a single click.

Previous controversy

Path is no stranger to abusing member information. In February, it paid an $800,000 fine to settle a case in which the FTC charged Path with illegally collecting personal information from children without parental consent, as well as scraping data from the address books in its members' mobile devices.

After some lulls in business over its three-year history, Path appears to be catching on, reportedly adding new users to its ranks at a million a week. Last week, the service reached the 10 million member milestone.

Losing Facebook connectivity could be a serious blow to Path because it will be more difficult to bring existing contacts into the service. Contacts can be imported from Gmail and Twitter, but Facebook friends tend to be the kind of folks you'd want on a network like Path.

Facebook guards turf

Facebook has often played hardball with services and apps that it sees as competing with its offerings.

Vine, a video-sharing app from Twitter; Wonder, a voice-activated social search app; and Voxer, a walkie-talkie type voice-messaging app all had their access to Facebook friends blocked in January.

Vintage Camera, a photo-sharing app that could be considered a competitor with Instagram, which Facebook acquired for $1 billion, had its Facebook access clipped in February.

And in March, MessageMe, a competitor to Facebook's Messenger app, also had its ties cut.

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