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iTunes is Spying On Me!

No, it's not, and those that want to complain that Apple has suddenly become Non-Public* Enemy #1. Hogwash, people:

However, this isn't about the MiniStore itself. It’s about Apple's attitude in rolling this change out to the millions of iTunes users, without as much as a peep about what's going on behind the scenes

Frankly, I'm not so quick to jump on Apple. They're one of the few companies I "trust." If they did something bad, sure they should tell people. But asking Apple to disclose every little change such as this is akin to asking everyone to affirm that they won't go murder someone each and every day. In other words, if you don't do anything "bad," why bother people? The Mac OS is built to get out of the way but inform the user before something 'bad' happens.

* "Non-Public" being "Private" or "Privacy." Weak, I know. Really weak.

P.S. The Boing Boing fellows predictably and routinely over-react to things like this.

3 Responses to "iTunes is Spying On Me!"

  1. Thanks, Erik. You seem to be one of the few people with a healthy opinion about that. Some morons even went as fas as calling iTunes spyware.

    I mean - what's it all about? You download an iTunes update and install it, and the first time you open it, you have the change in front of you: a little window that offers music suggestions from the iTMS based on the selected track. How can iTunes accomplish that if not by using the information about the selected track for a search query with the iTMS WebObjects server? It's in front of people's faces, it's happening right there, in front of you, and the button to disable the ministore is also right in front of you, including a tooltip.

    There's no conspiracy here, there's _nothing_ happening in the background, nothing obscure about it. Moreover, people are still able to turn off all of the store features and use iTunes completely as an offline music library.

    Apple advertizes the Ministore openly as a feature.

    There is, however, one thing about the feature that Apple will probably have to correct: in Germany, the laws on data protection apparently prohibit the transmission of data over the network without a user's consent / knowledge. There's no doubt that every user will know about that the first time he uses the application, but they probably won't (in some cases) have given their explicit consent to that data transmission so what might happen is:

    - a German court forces Apple to integrate a dialog box asking the user if the software may transmit song data for that feature and Apple will comply (in a "don't dry your dog in the microwave" kind of way)

    - a German court will force Apple to make this an opt-in feature instead of an opt-out feature (less likely).

    IANAL, but I think a dialog box should be enough to calm down the paranoid (and maybe a technote listing all the data that is being transmitted for completeness's sake.

  2. I think you already agree to it in the terms and conditions. While they don't explicitly talk about the MiniStore, they do obviously talk about the store in general, and you have to transmit data there too. So if Apple can have a German iTunes Music Store, I'm pretty sure the MiniStore falls beneath that umbrella.

    And FWIW, as a user of Party Shuffle in minimized mode 98% of the time, I admit that it took me two days to see the MiniStore. And I only saw it then because I read all the fuss about it.

  3. The Ministore is a little different in one respect: from what I've read about our legislation, the difference is that with the normal store, you have to click on the icon to activate it and / or make it transmit any kind of data but the store does _not_ send data about your local music library, and that is, according to German law, personal information. By contrast, the ministore is *on* by default and will happily transmit data without having the user activate that kind of data transmission. The discussion over here is about that sole principle, and over here, Apple must mention this fact in the EULA, which they apparently don't right now (as I said, I'm not an expert and this is one of the rare cases where we really agree completely, but if some idiot comes along and sues them, he might have a case).


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