Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Is iTunes reporting your listening back to the mothership?

Boing Boing passed along to its readers (Boing Boing: iTunes update spies on your listening and sends it to Apple?) a report that the latest version of Apple's iTunes is reporting back to Apple the music that users are listening to (see: iTunes Update: Apple's Looking Over Your Shoulder). This "feature" is via the MiniStore, which presents info about the performer whose song you are listening to and "other users also bought ..." information. The author was concerned that info about current listening was being passed back to Apple without telling users about it.

Other commentators have pointed out on Boing Boing that iTunes does not "phone home" if the MiniStore pane is closed.

This looks a lot like the feature in Windows Media Player which does something very similar, but I note that Microsoft at least asks you when you install if you mind having your info passed along to Microsoft. Apple the good doesn't look so good next to Microsoft.

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Anonymous said...

David, thanks for linking to my blog. The point I didn't convey adequately in my original post is that iTunes not only sends your data back to Apple (which may not be the end of the world), but it also sends your data to a third party marketing company. It's the second part I find more troubling.

privacylawyer said...

Boing Boing has some more info on the issue today (Boing Boing: Steve Jobs (?): Apple discards information transmitted by iTunes). It appears that, in addition to what since1968 has posted above, the "feature" also send back a unique identifier that is stored in a cookie on the user's system.

This may not be malevolent, but the lesson for a company like Apple to learn is the importance of letting users know what is being done and giving them a choice about it. If they had, it would be a non-story. But since the haven't, it has become a big deal.