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Path: Privacy, Nike, and SleepMolly Wood talks to Path CEO, Dave Morin on privacy issues, his popular app, and a new partnership with Nike.
Hey, everybody. I'm Molly Wood from CNET.com here at South by Southwest 2012, we're in our fabulous second market recovery lounge where we have just given Dave Morin, the CEO of Path a nice big cup of Blue Bottle Coffee. It's the best idea I've seen yet at SOUTH BY so thank you. You know what, it's like survival, it's survival technique. Yeah, SOUTH BY does that to you so I'm happy you guys brought the San Francisco coffee out here. So, let's back all the way up for the people who don't know what Path is, there may not be that many but you never know. Sure, yup. What is the deal with Path? So, at Path, we are trading sort of a modern journal and the idea is that you sort of capture the experiences and special moments in your life, and then you can share them with your close friends and family so we're very focused on family, in making it a very intimate place, a very trusted place to connect with less people not more and share more often. Right, and you do have some interoperability with Facebook, right? Yeah, we interopt really well actually with Facebook, Tweeter, Fourquare, and Tumblr. So, you have a new release which adds kind of some new features, music match, that kind of thing but you've said that encryption of user data privacy is kind of unfortunately... Yeah, it's a big deal. Now, that problem really seem to go together, encryption is coming later? Yeah, so, you know, our next release, so this is 2.1, we're doing a couple of 2.1, 2.2 releases but when we went through this interesting situation where we found that users, you know, wanted us to take a different approach to how we help them find their friends on Path; and what's been interesting is that people, basically are much more interested on how applications work on their mobile phones, I think much more so even then the world of computers in the web. So, initially you were not uploading or storing any user data before you started uploading the address books, so what made you decide to do that? I think it depends on which type of data you're talking about, you know, with Path, and we think with privacy, we think of this experience that we've created for people, you know, we've created this experience where only you can contribute to your Path; when you post, whether it's a thought or a photo to Path, we use SSL to transmit the data, we store it, you know, using very advance database technology, we use Mongo for everything. How long do you store address book information? We actually store it in perpetuity now but the opt in... Do you also... If you also deactivate your account, is that information deleted? Yeah, so we offer both deactivation and deletion so one of the things from working at Facebook for years that I found, or that we found I should say, is that users sometimes asks to deactivate their account, sometimes they'll ask to delete it, sometimes they want it back after it's been deleted so we offer a 2-step which is a really important thing to offer for social systems I think because there's... I'll tell you, we've already had people that asks to delete and then wanted it back and so offering the 2-step is really important I think so... What's the first step? Just deactivation. So that's like deactivate is the first step, right? Yes, so deactivated means, you know, you've deactivated, that you can get it back; deletion means the data's gone, you're gonna have to start over so... But I think it's important to offer the user control and do both. So, what happened to... I'm just curious about this, you said that you deleted the user data from address books you had data before? Yup. But if those people are active users, are they then kind of grandfathered in to like a super private experience or did you go back then and ask them if they wanted to re-upload? We just went back in and asked them to... If they wanted to re-upload so all of the data that we had prior, we've deleted, it was pretty interesting watching the number go to zero but now, you know, we've had a large, large number, a large percentage of the users have shown us in to opt in so I think that's a good thing. We're you surprised to discover, I mean, I think, you know, you're talking about the attitude toward the mobile usage and I think that a phone is a really... It's an intimate device, you know, it's a... Were you surprised though 'cause it seemed like it kinda... You became the poster app for it but you've said many times that a lot of other apps do this. I don't know if I was surprised, I think the intensity, it was obviously very intense but, you know, the reality is that mobile is a pretty new thing, you know, it's only been a couple of years into some of the more advanced social experiences that had been created, you know, I mean us and Instagram and Foursquare, and a lot of these experiences are 2 to 3 years old if at most, and so privacy in a mobile context, I think is still something that there needs to be a lot of education around and a lot of interesting sort of conversations around what are the best practices, what are the ways that consumers want this to be handled, and I think also there's a genuine interest amongst consumers around how are these applications built, you know? All right, do you think one of the things that's ticked off a little bit among the techno-journalism community at least was a discussion of whether there is a culture of respecting user privacy in Silicon Valley, and because there's a natural tension, possibly between the data collection that's necessary to create the experience that you want and the users' sense of their own privacy, do you think app developers are habitually kind of creating apps that don't necessarily put privacy first? Most people doing the most sophisticated social experiences certainly put privacy first; I think the challenge comes when you are developing a new experience a new social context right, so for us, we're developing this new context which I actually think hasn't existed on the internet yet where, you know, it's an intensely personal sharing experience, it's meant to be very private, it's meant to be a place where you can share thoughts which you might not share at other places; I think you'll end up... When you could all think of social experience especially, you end up in the situation where your both defining social norms and sort of trying to figure out where they are and what consumers wants and are comfortable with all sort of in real time; and so, I think the best thing that you can do is be very transparent about what you're trying to do and, you know, I think if you look at, you know, any of the big apps, the Facebook, the Foursquare, the Instagram, everyone is trying to build wonderful experiences for people, and I don't think anyone has a, you know, direct disrespect for anybody's privacy, it's mostly the... We're all just innovating and then trying to create new experiences, yeah. So you have a new partnership? Yup. Just announced itself by Nike. Yeah. Tell us what is next for Path. The first thing that we're releasing is an integration with the Nike Plus Running application, and we're doing some fun unique things where when you go out for a run, we update your Path in a very contextual way saying Dave is going for a run through the rain in Austin, and then your friends can respond to that, and when they do respond, you get cheers in your headphones. Really? Yeah, and then when the run is over and we update your Path with a beautiful map which shows the route of your run, your fastest pace, that actually shows the faces of your friends along the run as they cheered you on so that's the first thing; the second thing, really on in a couple of weeks is integration with the Nike Fuel Band. So, the Fuel Band is a new gadget, a new device, wearable computer that Nike just released just a couple of weeks ago actually which basically tracks your everyday activity, the number of steps that you take, the amount of time that you're active... Like the Up. Yeah, and it translates it into what they call a Fuel Score. I gotta ask you before I let you go, what's with the Sleep thing? I mean, I'm weirdly addicted to the Sleep thing but like where did that come from? That's a big part of people's day and there's this cleared trend towards capturing more data about Sleep and so we sort of just put a tiny, you know, dipped toe in our water there around, you know, building this kind of beautiful experience before going to sleep and we added some utility to it so that it turns off the notifications and it puts the application to sleep, it also sort of tells you how long you've been asleep, and we're gonna do some fun things with visualizations around it in the future but it makes it so, you know, as we work with more companies in the health space whether it's job-owned or other people that are interested in Sleep, we can... That'll become a big piece of it, and the good news is is that it's actually the third most popular type of content on Path. I really... At first I saw it, I was like really, I'm gonna tell that I'm asleep, I tell that I'm asleep all the time, I can't stop, and so I realized this isn't like a feature suggestion, I need a nap but... Yeah, we do hear that, we do need a nap button. It's been like nagging me about how I only got an hour of sleep, and like that was a great nap. Yeah, that was a good nap; we'll do the nap feature just for you. All right, I appreciate that. Cool, yeah. All right, well good luck at South by Southwest. Thank you. Thanks for coming to talk to us. You can find this interview and all of the rest of our interviews from email@example.com.