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Gracenote, Privacy, and the Rise of Metadata As a Valuable Asset 33

Nerval's Lobster writes "Earlier in February, Tribune Company completed the $170 million acquisition of Gracenote, a deal originally set in motion in late 2013. The merger is an unusual one: Gracenote owns a massive library of media metadata, and the Tribune Company is best known as the publisher of print newspapers and tabloids, most notably its flagship paper in Chicago. Regardless of the Tribune Company's specific plans for Gracenote's datasets and technical infrastructure, it spent a hefty amount of cash on an entity devoted solely to compiling metadata about copyrightable works owned by third parties: In other words, Gracenote still commands a nine-figure price tag when its primary product, to put it bluntly, amounts to footnotes and annotations to media for which it doesn't have licenses or rights. But here's where it potentially gets a little spooky: while the titles of the songs in your playlists shouldn't be conflated with records of your phone calls, services such as Gracenote's upcoming Rhythm Internet-radio service (which leans heavily on user preferences and behavior) may help Gracenote partially convert its library of media metadata into a library of user data. 'We do have big hopes for that part of our business going forward,' Gracenote president Stephen White confirmed to Slashdot. That makes privacy advocates a little nervous. 'We're seeing, especially with the ad space, that companies are trying to get user information from all different sources, and it's not just what brands are looking for anymore,' Ari Kamdar, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Slashdot. 'They're trying to get location data, financial data, habits, family so I'm not surprised that audio data could be one of the big facets.' (For his part, White insists that Gracenote is careful with data collection.) The Gracenote saga suggests that metadata — even the type that doesn't come from phones or social networks — is more valuable than ever, which is liable to get some companies really excited... and make a whole lot of people very, very nervous."
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Gracenote, Privacy, and the Rise of Metadata As a Valuable Asset

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  • Useless (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:37PM (#46269601)

    Considering that the Gracenote database only covers audio CDs it seems rather pointless in a world moving toward digital formats with embedded metadata.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Audio CDs are digital. Music went digital when CDs began.

      • You missed the "with embedded metadata" part. The music industry effectively ignored CDText such that most audio CDs are dumb PCM streams with no metadata.

  • holding a grudge (Score:5, Informative)

    by mattdm ( 1931 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:39PM (#46269625) Homepage

    Back in the 1990s, I helped run one of several mirrors for CDDB. When the company suddenly took a proprietary turn, they shut all of those down. They sent message promising to give some sort of reward to everyone who had run a mirror, but nothing ever showed up.

    I guess a couple of million would probably make it up....

    In seriousness, this was an early wakeup call about contributing to "community" projects without clear licenses for submitted data. And here I will put in a plug for FreeDB, which forked the original and continues to run it in an open way, with submissions under the GPL. []

    • by gmhowell ( 26755 )

      If not your mirror, I used a mirror of one of your colleagues back in the day.

      Thank you, sir.

  • The corporate 'survival of the fittest' totally confuses me. "Five years ago, Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy as advertising revenues declined, the result of the global recession; at the time, Gracenote had just been acquired by Sony for almost $100 million more than its most recent price."

    So now, somehow Tribune owns Gracenote, and spent $170 million for a database of metadata on music that it doesn't even own.

    • I see it as one of those instances where company X spends millions of dollars for company Y ... and 5 years later sells it off for thousands of dollars (or just closes it).

      It's a stupid move and I'm betting that someone knows or is related to someone else who will be taking a big chunk of that money.

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @03:45PM (#46269691)
    Tribune Media Company, owned by Tribune Company, publishes TV listings for various guides (set-top boxes, TiVo, etc).

  • It's data people conciously created and saved because it is important to them. In the trivial example of telephony, it's
    • - who you are
    • - who you're taking to
    • - when
    • - how long
    • - where you were at the time
    • - where they were
    • - where you were going, if in motion.
  • They provide a way to look up artist and album for .mp3s, etc., which are missing that data. People include Gracenote in their product becaise this is a desirable feature.

    IIRC, not only do they catalog known binaries for recognition, but have a hashing function to take unknown binaries, including analog re-recordings and redigitization, and look it up that way.

    This is useful precisely because it does not require an Internet connection.

  • Given that the most lucrative demographic of music purchases is (probably) under eighteen, preventing literal exploitation of minorities might have some teeth.
  • It'd be a lot less ominous without the news that music services are able to predict your political party based on the music you listen to [].

    What's the max temperature ramp rate before the frog jumps out of the water, anyway?

  • by wile_e_wonka ( 934864 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @05:12PM (#46270387)

    'We do have big hopes for that part of our business going forward,' Gracenote president Stephen White confirmed to Slashdot.>

    Since when is /. in the news-making department rather than just the news aggregating department? Maybe I'm just out of the loop on this....

  • There sure seems to be a gold rush mentality on metadata, and while some of it, like financial transactions or phone logs seems like it would be valuable to some people, some of the metadata grabbing seems kind of like fool's gold.

    Maybe I'm just too thick to see how valuable all of it is, but at some point I wonder if maybe people are linking metadata together and reaching the conclusions they want to reach and not actually finding something that's really there, like getting a connect-the-dots picture with

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well, let's start by stipulating that there's no inherent difference between "data" and "metadata"; it's all just data.

      "Metadata" is simply data that's not germane to a particular task. For example, the IP address you are posting from is not germane to this discussion we're having, but it might be useful for figuring out whether you're a sock puppet astroturfing the site. The metadata on a MP3 track is not germane to the task of listening to that song, but it is germane to selecting other songs like it.


  • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @08:35PM (#46272001)

    I'm not particularly careful about my online behavior and with all of the news about massive tracking of consumer habits, why are the adds I see so badly targeted? I went to key west for a week, and for months later received banner adds on Google for things in Key West. I stayed at a Las Vegas hotel, and immediately afterwards received tons of adds for....Las Vegas hotels. I'm quite sure that if I bought a car, I'd see tons of car adds. It seems that advertisers haven't learned that simply collecting data does not provide the information they need - the goal is to provide adds to people for things that the WANT TO BUY, not to provide add for things that the NO LONGER NEED.

    This leads me to wonder if advertisers are getting any real value out of all this tracking information that they are paying for.

  • by n3r0.m4dski11z ( 447312 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2014 @02:00AM (#46273725) Homepage Journal

    Gracenote sounds familiar, but they are the ones who commercialized CDDB! Also now they are owned by sony. []

    That's the problem with these for profit companies. Now everyone is selling my meta data, for lookups that I had never even considered left a footprint. Hopefully my DNS servers are not thinking of commercializing my metadata! how far can they go in search of every last scrap of profit? commercialize ntp! why the fuck not!!!! profit profit profit! stocks go up up up!!!

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