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Privacy Media Media (Apple)

iTunes is Malware? 779

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the but-not-if-apple-does-it dept.
Moby writes "On the heels of the big Apple love-in that is Macworld comes some interesting but alarming news. Recently a few blogs have started to indicate that iTunes is tracking your music preferences and using that data to recommend other songs from iTMS. The article provides a good overview, with some recommendations of its own. Basically, iTunes is tracking your music and sending the data back to Apple servers. This info is then used to advertise songs that may be to your tastes. A convenient feature, perhaps, but it raises concerns over privacy."
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iTunes is Malware?

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nhojovadle.> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:47PM (#14446899) Journal
    All companies want to market their products to you as effectively and automatically as possible. With the sudden rise in data mining tools such as this, what's a big corporation to do but hop on the bandwagon?

    You may remember that Amazon even patented [slashdot.org] a similar technique. And I've always suspected my local grocery store of profiling me. Afterall, I hand them a little tag on my keychain for my discount, they scan it and suddenly my name is on the reciept. I'd be naive to think they aren't generating statistics about me and secretly making note that I buy far more long grain wild rice than the average consumer.

    So what's the problem here? The problem is that I don't like it. I don't want a computer program diagnosing me at a hospital even if it is built on solid Bayesian probability models and I don't want a profile of my musical tastes being generated on a company's database. My taste in music is my business and I don't want other people knowing that my most listened to album is Tom Dooley and Other Hits by The Kingston Trio.

    All I've learned from this is that a big company is a big company whether it's Microsoft, Sony, Apple or Google.

    From the article:
    Apple has overstepped its limits, and this spyware (because it sends information to a server) and adware (because it displays information to attempt to sell you products) is a very serious breach of the trust I have long had in Apple's products.
    Oh, come now, you're telling me you've trusted Apple? What has Apple done to gain your trust? They're a profitable corporation and that's where their interests lie. How to get the moneys from your hands to theirs as efficiently as possible.

    The only thing that makes me sad about this is that local bands still lose out because I doubt they'll ever make recommendations unless tens of thousands of users are showing that association. I wish Apple would make a service called halfTunes that sold songs at 50 or 25 or free for bands that are looking for exposure, not profits.
    • by tgd (2822) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:50PM (#14446943)
      And I've always suspected my local grocery store of profiling me. Afterall, I hand them a little tag on my keychain for my discount, they scan it and suddenly my name is on the reciept. I'd be naive to think they aren't generating statistics about me and secretly making note that I buy far more long grain wild rice than the average consumer.

      Suspected? Secretly? They make no secret about it. What do you think those cards are for? They offer you discounts in return for your demographic information and purchasing habits. They print coupons after your sale based on it too. Its not some grand secret conspiracy.
      • by Hawthorne01 (575586) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:04PM (#14447099)
        Which is why when signing up for my discount card, I listed myself as a 60 year old lady with an address in a retirement center.

        Makes me wonder what happens in their data centers when I make a late-night beer run... :-)
      • by Jboy_24 (88864) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:41PM (#14447470) Homepage
        I once signed my real name and number on one of those, and I got zilch that I could tell was from filling it out. No mail, no phonecalls ... nothing.

        But as I've read more about the grocery store industry I'm thinking more and more that those 'club' cards aren't much about tracking consumers as in identifying the gross number of unique shoppers that use the club card.

        The reason being, is that the way grocery stores work is a little counter-intuitive. You would think that some shopper for safeway goes out, finds some variety of products , then places them on the shelves in such a way that the more profitable are chest level.

        The actual mechanics are much more complex. Food suppliers will actually pay money to have their products on the ends of the isles, in the best position on the space. I'm pretty sure there's a little buying and selling on the part of Safeway, but I suspect the real situation is more like the suppliers are renting the space out to put their products on.

        The store brand then is the way the store makes money on the actual product not on just the shelf space.

        Therefore, the club cards are something that safeway charges for. Products become club specials, not when safeway finds a crate going bad, or found a good deal, but when the supplier pays safeway to put them on the club. So, Safeway really doesn't care about the information behind the card, (My last couple of club cards I got, they just handed me a new card, I didn't have to fill out anything). All safeway cares about is how often the card is used, so they can tell their suppliers how great it would be if they put their products on the club card.

        • by brendanoconnor (584099) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @04:04PM (#14448268)
          I actually work for Safeway and can reliably tell you that companies pay us to place their product in a specific spot in the store. Safeway feels that a large portion of its profits come from these vendor deals rather then actual product sales. This does not mean product sales are useless, but that we make a very large percentage of our money off product placement.

          As far as tracking sales with the club card. For instance, the safeway cards that do not have magnetic stripes but rather just a barcode, that barcode does not hold a lot of information. The other club cards with the magnetic strip can actually made to link to your checking account for shopping at Vons. Of course a pin number is tacked on for a bare level of security. I find that the vast majority of customers will have a club card with correct information as well. Also many of them have the card connected to their bank accounts.

          As far as employees not using their club card, I have never heard an employee say they refuse to use the card as it tracks sales (I mean, heck, this company pays your freaken checks, they have all your information ANYWAY). Most employees that do not have cards are really just to damn lazy to fill out a peice of paper.

          Speaking of iTunes, yes they are tracking what you download, not sure if they ask or not, though I'm sure its in the eula, but if they asked and you said yes, I do not see the problem. Do not like it, do not use them for your music needs.
    • by FalconZero (607567) * <.FalconZero. .at. .Gmail.com.> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:58PM (#14447032)
      Ever used an Internet browser? That sends data to various servers, does that constitute a risk to your privacy? Probably, but it doesn't make Firefox, IE & Opera 'malware', in the same way that even if iTunes is sending data to Apple, it's not necessaraly malware.

      Kneejerk reactions like this are unsupprising given the current culture of "Oh my god, the've got my name and they know what music I like!". If you are conserned about your privacy with regard to a company or service, I suggest you start with their Terms of Service [apple.com] and Privacy Policy [apple.com] - If you don't like them, you don't have to use their service.
    • by Politburo (640618) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:08PM (#14447144)
      Oh, come now, you're telling me you've trusted Apple? What has Apple done to gain your trust?

      Why, their motto, of course! After all with a motto like Don't be Ev... whoops.. I'll come back next article.
    • by C0rinthian (770164) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:13PM (#14447209)
      I wish Apple would make a service called halfTunes that sold songs at 50 or 25 or free for bands that are looking for exposure, not profits.
      And why do you think bands are looking for exposure? Exposure means more customers. More customers means more profits.
  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:47PM (#14446905)
    First of all, I don't know how this qualifies as iTunes suddenly being "malware", but anyway...

    Edit -> Hide MiniStore (or shift-command-M)

    No information of any kind is sent when the MiniStore is disabled.

    What iTunes 6.0.2 is doing:

    Sending information about the currently playing track to Apple, and then displaying information related to that track in the iTunes Music Store in the MiniStore pane. It is not broadly "tracking your music preferences".

    Further - though we admittedly don't know this since Apple doesn't explain how it is using the data - there is no proof that Apple is doing anything but merely changing the MiniStore display based on what track you are listening to (which is very likely exactly what they're doing); not aggregating or "tracking your music preferences".

    iTunes isn't doing this surreptitiously, either: the MiniStore pane clearly actively changes depending on what track you have selected. One would presume this does not happen via magic or the dark arts.

    I'd love to have comment from Apple, and a clear presentation that information is being sent to Apple for x purpose, and a clear option to allow - or disallow - such use. I've looked through the iTunes 6.0.2 license and do not see any such guidance.

    Granted, the MiniStore pane is present by default, but it can be disabled as easily as is described above.

    I realize many people think this represents "going over the line"; but is there ever any instance where datamining to match items you might be interested in to your interests is acceptable? Is there any value to having this be the default state in certain instances where it could be significantly helpful?
    • by garcia (6573) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:50PM (#14446934) Homepage
      Edit -> Hide MiniStore (or shift-command-M) No information of any kind is sent when the MiniStore is disabled.

      Then it should be disabled by default or you should be asked (in plain English) if you want it enabled when the program starts for the first time after update. If you say no it shouldn't ever ask you again nor should it track your listening preferences.

      I realize many people think this represents "going over the line"; but is there ever any instance where datamining to match items you might be interested in to your interests is acceptable? Is there any value to having this be the default state in certain instances where it could be significantly helpful?

      No. Absolutely not. Especially when they didn't ask my permission first.
      • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:56PM (#14447020)
        Then it should be disabled by default or you should be asked (in plain English) if you want it enabled when the program starts for the first time after update. If you say no it shouldn't ever ask you again nor should it track your listening preferences.

        You don't know that it's "tracking" anything, even now.

        On the other hand, we don't know it's not doing that, since Apple doesn't tell us.

        No. Absolutely not.

        It's never ok for an external entity to attempt to match things to your interests? Okay, possibly a different philosophical outlook on things, here...

        Especially when they didn't ask my permission first.

        Agreed. But, as I said, it's not exactly a secret that it's doing something to be able to actively change the MiniStore display.

        Sure, Apple's trying to sell something. But it can also be argued, correctly, that this improves the user experience with iTunes (aside from the broader privacy argument). I do, however, agree that Apple should have made this clearly known on the first launch, and given an option at the same time to simply disable it.
    • I don't see that in iTunes 6 on the Mac at my office. Is this only for PCs or something?

      Anyway, I love having new music reccomended for me. I have an account at Last.FM [www.last.fm] set up to do just that for me. It keeps track of every song I listen to, rates the artists I listen to most as well as the albums and songs I listen to most. It even has a community feature where you can find people with similar music tastes.
    • Opt-in or opt-out (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frankie70 (803801)

      Granted, the MiniStore pane is present by default, but it can be disabled as easily as is described above.


      Shouldn't a non-evil company have Opt-In rather an
      Opt-Out - spammers are the ones who are supposed
      to prefer opt-out.
    • by jafiwam (310805) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:57PM (#14447633) Homepage Journal
      To add to the parent poster, I think "Malware" is not an appropriate term for what this program is doing.

      When I use the term "malware" I typically mean programs that do one or more of the following;

      - resist uninstallation
      - persist after uninstallation attempts
      - reinstall after uninstallation or "by the roots" removal
      - hide from the user
      - hide from the operating system
      - hide what they are doing *
      - damage the operating system
      - replace, interfere with, spoof, or hijack functions such as DNS resolution, home page, file associations and toolbars
      - create problems in order to sell you a "fix" for them

      The one with the asterisk, is the ONLY one of these things that iTunes is doing, and that only if the user is hopelessly ignorant about computers and the internet.

      It might be "spyware" but it is not "malware" in my book.
    • I've had last.fm's AudioScrobbler client (iScrobbler) running on my Mac for ages now. It feeds info on the songs I listen to [www.last.fm] into their web site, where there's a database and all that. I get recommendations, and so forth. Looks like the new iTunes functionality is basically identical to that, except that now it's integrated with the iTunes store...
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:48PM (#14446909) Journal

    While it's been some time since I installed iTunes (to provide support for friends and family -- hard to walk them through an interface I've never seen) it seems to me that the tracking and recommendations is optional. I could be wrong.

    That said, even if it were NOT optional, I'm not sure I see the controversy here. People love the iTunes/iPod marriage and the "it just works" philosophy.

    Part of that philosophy is the synergy that is the relationship between the user and the product. Apple seems to be good at defining and enhancing that relationship. So, it seems (to me) a logical extension to "observe" the music a user likes and make recommendations therein.

    How different and onerous is this compared to the Amazon "people who have purchased this also have purchased ...," feature?

    iTunes isn't my cup of tea, but for many users, this "malware", in my opinion, is a far different (and more benign) animal than, say, the SONY DRM debacle.

    As for the author's opinion about how controversial this should be, quoting the last paragraph from the article:

    So, for now, if you don't want iTunes phoning home--and you may not want Apple to record the music you listen to--you can simply hide the MiniStore. I find Apple remiss for not being forthright about this feature, both in its EULA and other information in iTunes. But I have a feeling that this issue will be making some waves in the immediate future.
    specifically and especially to his last sentence, I don't (have a feeling this will be making some waves in the immediate future).

    Furthermore!, it should be pointed out the author "concedes" in the article:

    Edit: after more analysis, this does not send info to Apple when you are playing music, but rather when you click on a song. So if you start playing a song by double-clicking, it will send info to the iTunes Music Store and retrieve suggestions. But if the song is in a playlist, the MiniStore display will not change when the next song begins
    which almost completely renders moot the original thesis.
  • Wouldn't iTunes already know all of your music tastes, since presumably you purchased all of your music from them? Granted they would now know that you listen to Britney Spears all day and night, but assuming you got your music through them, what is the big deal here?
  • So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tyger (126248) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:49PM (#14446928)
    So? BFD. Certainly there are cases where privacy is a concern, and companies are harvesting personal data for ill gains. But is this really one of them? Calling it malware makes it sound like Apple was so sinister. It's no worse than Amazon tracking your purchase habbits and using it to suggest what other shoppers must buy, or the fact that you have to register with CDDB now, so they could potentially track what music you listen to. Of course the article doesn't even offer proof that the data is even retained by Apple, nor that there it is directly associated with your personal information. It could just be using the immediately selected song to suggest similar music, not a full history.

    And what exactly sinister use will Apple have for this horribly damaging data, anyway?

    Plus, it's so easy to disable. Get over it already.
  • More info (Score:4, Informative)

    by Moby Cock (771358) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:50PM (#14446931) Homepage
    I found the following links since submitting the story:

    Here [boingboing.net]
    and
    Here [since1968.com]
  • Malware?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShortSpecialBus (236232) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:50PM (#14446936) Homepage
    What is it doing that is malicious?

    Spyware, sure, but not malware.

    -stefan
    • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:35PM (#14447395) Homepage
      What is it doing that is malicious?

      Spyware, sure, but not malware.
      It recommended Justin Timberlake.
      'Nuff said
    • Re:Malware?? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekee (591277)
      "What is it doing that is malicious?

      Spyware, sure, but not malware."

      Spyware is by definition malware. Just because there is an apparent obvious use doesn't mean there aren't other things Apple could do with this data. They could sell it to record labels. They could identify tracks that are probably obtained illegally, etc.
  • by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak@@@eircom...net> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:51PM (#14446948) Homepage Journal
    This is incredulous!! The ergonomically designed iTunes interface hides nothing from the user and shows any and all pertinent information at the briefest glance. The stylishly engineered music system and efficient online purchasing system offers only the highest level of quality entertainment with none of the underhanded skullduggery that lesser companies wallow in.

    Apple soars above such outrages!! You will feel His Jobnesses' Wrath!!
    • Re:Impossible!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sentry21 (8183)
      The ergonomically designed iTunes interface hides nothing from the user and shows any and all pertinent information at the briefest glance.

      Truer than you know - the 'malware' is actually iTunes suggesting similar music when you click on a track, which displays in the Ministore pane. If you turn off the Mini-store, then no data is sent. Hence, your statement is correct. It *isn't* hiding it from the user, and it *does* show pertinent information. Neat huh?
  • by BushCheney08 (917605) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:51PM (#14446955)
    Amazon.com is a malicious website! When I click on a book, they show me other books that people have purchased with it!!!
    • by mopslik (688435)

      Amazon.com is a malicious website! When I click on a book, they show me other books that people have purchased with it!

      While the term "malicious" should probably not have been applied to either iTunes or Amazon, what you say is correct: Amazon.com monitors your clicks and purchases, and profiles it against its database to suggest other books you might want to purchase.

      The difference, of course, is that while you are clicking on Amazon.com, you are essentially playing about on their server. When you are

    • by garcia (6573) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:05PM (#14447109) Homepage
      Amazon is a store accessable via a web browser. iTMS is a music store accessable via software. iTunes is an interface to iTMS *OR* a standalone player. As far as I'm aware Amazon doesn't have its own branded browser.

      So, iTMS can track my habits just like Amazon does. iTunes should not.
    • by porcupine8 (816071) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @03:03PM (#14447697) Journal
      You think that's bad? After I purchased a PowerPuff Girls video, they had the gall to EMAIL ME when the next one came out! It was horrible, I needed months of therapy to get over this horrible stalking.
  • by SageMadHatter (546701) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:53PM (#14446976)
    No. It is not.
    Malware definition [wikipedia.org]

    Perhaps the news submitter ment to use the term spyware?
  • by nvrrobx (71970) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:53PM (#14446977) Homepage
    ...and get over it.

    The reccommendations feature in iTunes is fantastic. Amazon's Reccommendations page has a "I own it" check box. I use this page frequently to find new music or books or DVDs I would be interested in based on the other things I own (even those I didn't buy from Amazon).

    From TFA, it hasn't been determined if the cookie sent back contains your Apple ID. It may not. It may not contain anything traceable or of a privacy concern. How about trying to use iTunes on a clean install without buying anything first and seeing if it does the same?

    But one thing is for sure - if you want service of a personalized nature, you have to be willing to let someone know something about you.
  • Please (Score:5, Funny)

    by goaty_the_flying_sho (861224) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:53PM (#14446981)
    Oh shit! Apple knows you listen to too much Britney Spears! Time to get hysterical and post to a bunch of blogs from starbucks on your powerbook.
  • So What? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tedgyz (515156) * on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:54PM (#14446997) Homepage
    I'm all for privacy, but this doesn't seem terribly unreasonable. Nobody bitches about Amazon customizing their storefront based on past purchases. Well, maybe they do, but I don't hang around with tinfoil-hat-types.

    My point is that every time I go to the iTunes music store, I think, "Gee, wouldn't it be cool if the store knew about my collection and taylored the site to my tastes. I really don't care to see the latest offering from Kelly Clarkson.

    I guess the ideal thing would be if I were given a choice. I didn't see any mention of that in the article. To me, that would be one way to satisfy both crowds. I guess I'll have to fire up iTunes and see if I'm being "watched".
  • Ok, seriously! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rantastic (583764) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:56PM (#14447021) Journal
    Lets be real here. It is not like iTunes is sending my personal information to Microsoft! This is Apple. Cudly and sweetest computer company of all.

    In all seriousnes I will check the eula when I get home, but I bet there is something in there when you install a new version. On top of that, it only happens when you have the MiniStore open. The whole point of the MiniStore is to offer you music you might like. How else should it work?

  • by Mrs. Grundy (680212) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:57PM (#14447027) Homepage
    you listen to a lot Anton Webern. Seriously, it turns out that people who bought Anton Webern's Variations for Piano, Op. 27 (all three of us) also bought Jeff Foxworthy--at least according to the ministore. That little gem of demographic goodness has brightened up my day so much I don't care how what info Apple gets from my listening habits.
  • by chriss (26574) * <chriss@memomo.net> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @01:58PM (#14447035) Homepage

    What happens: iTunes sends a request to the music store if you click on a track in your iTunes Library. It displays the recommendations it received based on the track you clicked in a mini store below the library. If you dislike this, press COMMAND-SHIFT-M ( Edit > Hide MiniStore).

    Is this spyware? I think the definition as used in the article is ways to broad:

    spyware (because it sends information to a server) and adware (because it displays information to attempt to sell you products)

    My definition would include "without my consent and without me being able to turn if of". Maybe yours would be "without asking me BEFOREHAND".

    The main problem is that we are developing a lot of technology that allows us to personalize any kind of service. This has been impossible in the past, but with the establishment of the web as data infrastructure and database driven applications on web servers accessing data from millions of users at a time, this all changed. I think we have to change the way we think about this and whom to blame.

    I'm somewhat paranoid about my data, e.g. I only pay cash to leave no trace. On the other hand I LOVE amazons recommendation system and am very willing to give them informations not only about what I buy, but also about what I might buy. [But I wouldn't search amazon for the "Anarchists handbook" or "DIY pipe bombs" without deleting my cookies first.]

    We're just at the beginning of the massive use of personalization. Wait a couple of years and someone will convince you with a service that requires tracking you via GPS 24h/day. The old idea of "minimal data collection" simply will not work. But 1984 wont happen either. We will get used to leaving data tracks everywhere. [One thing that really scared me was AT&Ts patent to read the RFID tags in your trash can to find out about your consumption habits.] It will happen because it is so convenient. Like gene modified fruit or gene therapy. Resistance is (basically) futile, though often worth a try.

    Our main focus should be to push society into handling this wisely, if it cannot (or should not) be stopped. So push for privacy laws that do not simply allow or prohibit collecting data, but which clearly define who may access the data, what they may do with it, in which ways they have to inform you about it.

    Control what is done with your data, not if it exists at all.

    Chriss

    --
    memomo.net - brush up your German, French, Spanish or Italian - online and free [memomo.net]

  • by TedTschopp (244839) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:05PM (#14447106) Homepage
    Uninstall it now, and install Windows Media player or Real player. I hear they are much better.

    P.S. I also heard the sky was falling...
  • by night_flyer (453866) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:06PM (#14447113) Homepage
    "it raises concerns over privacy."

    What? are you afraid it might get out that you listen to Britney Spears?
  • by brettlbecker (596407) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:06PM (#14447120) Homepage
    It would be interesting to re-phrase the question and replace "iTunes" with "Windows Media Player" and see what kinds of responses are generated by the Slashdot crowd.

    Sample headline: "It seems the most recent update to Microsoft's bundled media application Windows Media Player is mining the music tracks that a user plays and sending that data back to Microsoft in order to present the user with similar tracks from the MSN Music Store. What Microsoft does with this data after Music Store recommendations are made is unknown."

    Will the apologists for Apple and their data mining stand up in this case as well?

    Interesting question, anyway.

    B
    • by robertjw (728654) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @04:39PM (#14448586) Homepage
      It would be interesting to re-phrase the question and replace "iTunes" with "Windows Media Player" and see what kinds of responses are generated by the Slashdot crowd.

      There would be a few knee-jerk responses because Microsoft was involved and a lot of bitching about the level of Microsoft's evilness. Ultimately it wouldn't matter because both iTunes and WMP would have the right to do this based on their EULA and everyone would forget about it as soon as the next Google article posted.
  • by SpaceAdmiral (869318) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:07PM (#14447132) Homepage
    I want them to track my music listening habits. Maybe if they notice the bands I listen to, they will make deals to distribute music from Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords artists. . . 'cause currently iTunes have almost nothing I want to listen to.
  • by saleenS281 (859657) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:08PM (#14447143) Homepage
    Everyone knows tracking is only bad when it's from "evil" companies like SCO, Microsoft, or Sony. Apple is "good" and "on our side".

    /satire In all reality, this would be fine if they had a clearly labeled option/popup when you first ran iTunes. "Hey, we'd like to track the songs you listen to so we can recommend some other songs we think you'll like" and not buried somewhere in a EULA, or not actually brought up at all. Then again, from what I can tell apple doesn't like to give users choice, they like to decide what's right and wrong for you. This truly isn't a flame either... after working back and forth with them extensively for over a year, it's just how they operate. Sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes it's not. In this case, I would say it's not.
  • How ironic (Score:4, Funny)

    by wcrowe (94389) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:19PM (#14447262)
    I find ironic the possibility that some of those who would object to this data mining, routinely share their musical preferences with the world via nuclear-powered subwoofers at 2:00am.

    • Re:How ironic (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DaveV1.0 (203135)
      You forgot they are also the ones sharing their musical tastes when the put songs on all those wonderful P2P sites and software.
  • by Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:38PM (#14447426)
    Not sure that tracking purchases is really "malware", but I'm certainly not a fan of the way that the default Quicktime download is "QuickTime 7 with iTunes 6".

    If I wanted iTunes I'd download it - I don't want it appearing on my PC because I installed something else. There is (or was last time that I needed it) a non-iTunes version that you can find after lots of hunting around, but it's sharp practice at least to make it available this way.
    • Yes, that's what annoyed me as well. my girlfriend had to install a quicktime viewer for a university course recently and ended up with iTunes.

      I already hated quicktime for various reasons and now I hate it even more. And iTunes with it :(

      $appleimage--

      X.
  • by tabdelgawad (590061) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:53PM (#14447598) Homepage
    1) "But you can turn it off!" - And here I thought it was about default settings and opt-in. Didn't we (users) already fight these battles with Windows Media Player and Real?

    2) "But Amazon does it!" - In a browser, while online browsing on *their* servers. A child can see the difference.

    3) "But it's useful!" - So, potentially, is any invasion of privacy. If they know everything about you, they can make your shopping experience *really* convenient!

    4) "But Apple wouldn't use the info for bad purposes!" - The government wanted to access your bookstore receipts and library checkouts (in addition to monitoring your phonecalls and emails without warrants). I'm sure Apple will fight to the last cent before handing over one iota of info to the government ...

    Every one of these points was made in a +5 moderated post. Think, moderators, think!
  • Over-reaction (Score:3, Informative)

    by Yahweh Doesn't Exist (906833) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:58PM (#14447643)
    anyone familiar with iTunes and bitching: why didn't you make such a huge fuss over the little arrows next to the artists/albums that link you to the music store?

    they provide exactly the same function and are also enabled by default. however, whereas it took 2 clicks to disable the arrows it only takes 1 click to disable the ministore.
  • Stupidity vs. Malice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Daedala (819156) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @02:58PM (#14447649)
    Apple screwed up: this is unquestionably spyware, because it's not clear before you install that this is going on, it was slipped into a regular update, etc. I'm definitely a Maccy, but I won't serve as an apologist for this. It's wrong. Period.

    That said, it doesn't appear to be malicious. It's very easily turned off and that doesn't seem to disable any function that isn't directly related. They're not hiding what they're doing as they do it.

    I'd chalk this up to stupidity and poor communication. It doesn't seem like they were really trying to hide anything, just that they didn't think, "Hey, maybe I should be extra-specially-clear and disclose this." The tech people weren't talking to the marketing people; what a shock.

    I'd hope for a quick mea culpa and clarification of the service. Perhaps, when you start the updated iTunes for the first time, a dialogue box could pop up and say, "Hi! Want me to tell the iTMS what song you're playing? Then I can make recommendations for you! [Yes] [No] [Bite me]"
  • by dreamer-of-rules (794070) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @03:18PM (#14447840)
    For those of you who didn't RTFA or missed what this is all about, the latest update in iTunes added a 1" advertisizing bar in the playlist windows that is easily closed.

    THIS IS NOT THE "RECOMMENDED FOR YOU" WINDOW IN THE MUSIC STORE. This is a new bar which appeared prominently in a playlist window by default after the latest update. THIS IS NOT HIDDEN TRACKING. THIS IS A CLOSABLE AD.

    The mini-store bar is very obvious. It is annoying that it appears at all, but can be turned off easily (click the close/hide button) just like the album artwork. The mini-store is not subtle. It very clearly is showing songs in iTMS that match whatever song you just selected in iTunes, like other songs by that artist, and such. It does not appear to suggest songs based on my previous purchases. It looks just like the iTMS store (when you get to actual tracks), but at the bottom of *your* playlist instead of going through the usual iTMS clicks.

    According to the reports, sniffing the traffic shows that if you close the mini-store window, it does not bother to send any hits/requests/info back to Apple. Presumably because you wouldn't see the results anyway. If Apple is sending my uniqueid along with my selection clicks, this would be somewhat more of a privacy issue.

    I am annoyed by the new "feature" since I hate advertising. But I don't see it as a serious breach of privacy, except that a little popup explaining the new feature and what it does would have been greatly appreciated. It's only a little different from clicking on tracks in the iTMS in that it appears in playlists.

    Adware? Sure. Spyware? No. Annoying? Yes, for five seconds, until you click the hide button.
  • by Medievalist (16032) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @03:38PM (#14447997)
    For those who don't know: The iTunes EULA is outrageously broad, and basically grants permission to Apple and several other companies to do anything they damn well please - including re-writing the entire EULA without notification or consent.

    That's why my mac has no iTunes. That's why the corporation I work for does not allow versions of Quicktime that include iTunes.

    Incidentally, I've been roundly flamed (and even made people's /. foes list) for pointing out that I, personally, am unwilling to enter such an open-ended contract.

    Perhaps I have blasphemed the mac religion by reading an Apple EULA. I fully expect this post to be modded troll and flamebait, although it is intended as neither.
  • Say it ain't so (Score:3, Insightful)

    by inkswamp (233692) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @04:06PM (#14448290)
    You mean Apple is doing exactly what they stated they were doing when they unveiled this feature months ago? NOOO!!! How shocking! What an outrage. I'm glad the sleuthing reporters at mcelhearn.com are on top of these shocking developments and can bring them to our attention so quickly.

  • last.fm? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brunellus (875635) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @04:23PM (#14448452) Homepage

    You know, it sounds suspiciously like the features of last.fm [www.last.fm], which collects data on your listening habits, then reports back to its servers, and recommends new things to listen to. The killer here is that using those data it queues up a streaming audio player that plays music similar to the stuff you listen to anyway.

    Actually, I rather like this feature on last.fm, and I don't particularly mind broadcasting the type of music/audio I'm listening to at any given moment. The "neighbour radio" (last.fm's term for it) is the best part--it lets me tune out my cubemate's preference for '80s soft rock.

  • Oh, God no! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by niteskunk (886685) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @04:27PM (#14448486)
    Telling Apple what I listen to? HEAVEN FORBID IT!

    Is it just me or are a lot of people hypersensitive to issues like this? Who cares if Apple knows my playlist? To their servers, I'm just another consumer, they don't have the time/will to sit there and read incoming data, "HEHE, THAT GUY LISTENS TO MICHELLE BRANCH."

    Seriously now. There are issues far greater than this that should be stressed.
  • by camperslo (704715) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @04:41PM (#14448608)
    Think of it as having some hidden Easter [robinsfyi.com] Eggs [schmitzpress.com] or a game [eeggs.com].
    Perhaps It'll come back with something interesting if you listen to things like Joe Wecker - DeCSS Song [cmu.edu] or Wierd Al Yakovic - Windows 95 Sucks

    Could anyone else care about what you listen to?

    If your collection is really Da BOMB, it'll include
    JJ Walker - DYNOMITE!
    Simon and Garfunkle BRIDGE Over Troubled Water
    Moody Blues - TUESDAY AFTERNOON
    The Vogues - FIVE O'CLOCK World

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