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iTunes is Malware?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the but-not-if-apple-does-it dept.

Privacy 779

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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Big Brother and the iTunes Company (3, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446899)

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.

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (2, Insightful)

IAmTheDave (746256) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446924)

I don't know about all stores online, but the e-commerce site I run keeps a database of purchases for both my own book-keeping and customer support needs (like, track a shippment, order history.) The data is already there, I don't understand how it becomes spyware when the data is mined to look for similar music that might match what you already have purchased through the store.

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (0, Offtopic)

IAmTheDave (746256) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446953)

Sorry, I misread the article. It's about the music you're currently listening to. Mod me down :(

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (3, Insightful)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447085)

The song you are listening to may NOT have been purchased through iTMS. They are monitoring your library of songs that have been obtained in other manners and keeping record of them too. That is spyware.

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (1)

suwain_2 (260792) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447087)

The problem is that it is (allegedly) sending the information to them when you play the song, not just when you buy it.

An analogy would be if I bought a book from Amazon. I'd fully expect them to keep records that I bought it. I would not expect them to have a database of every time I picked the book up and read it, though--that would just be creepy.

I don't know what's really going on, though, so this is all speculation.

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (4, Informative)

tgd (2822) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (5, Funny)

Hawthorne01 (575586) | more than 8 years ago | (#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... :-)

But it can be put to good use (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447129)

Since the local grocery stores track purchase via phone number, I am always careful to give the local police department's non emergency number when I get my monthly three bags of purina dog chow, boxes of milk bones and bags of pig ears.

I sure hope someone's looking at this stuff.

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14446991)

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.


Then you better stop blasting it out of your riced up Honda Civic's pathetic Optimus audio system at 3:00am you worthless piece of marmoset dung!

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447034)

Then you better stop blasting it out of your riced up Honda Civic's pathetic Optimus audio system at 3:00am you worthless piece of marmoset dung!
Um, I'd first like to say, Optimus Prime forever!

Second, that's a riced up Chevrolet Cavalier, thank you.

Third, I'm usually in bed by 2:00 am.

Fourth, marmoset dung is valued by some cultures so you can't consider it worthless. I'm sure it burns just fine as cheap heating fuel.

Privacy Risk != Malware (5, Insightful)

FalconZero (607567) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14447033)

DAMN! You nerds crack me up, I just noticed how quickly you guys need to make your opinion known. Look at the thread creation time then look at the first posting time: 1 minute on this one! Seems to average about 5 minutes max. Do you guys have /. pagers set to alarm you when fresh news is posted?

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (2, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447078)

The chip that CowboyNeal put in my brain goes off.

The tube that CmdrTaco put in my neck to feed me is filled with coffee.

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14447054)

long grain wild rice = teh gay.

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (1)

InfraredAD (904482) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447098)

Na, this report is pure FUD-ware. If it's talking about what I think it's talking about, it has to do with the iTunes Music Store's "Just For You" section, which is a BETA and can be TURNED OFF. Don't like it? Turn it off, still don't like it? Stop using cocaine as your coffee creamer.

the art of spying on an exhibitionist (2, Insightful)

jheath314 (916607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447124)

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.

/me tries avoid posting just to point out the irony of writing this on /.

*strain*

Re:Big Brother and the iTunes Company (4, Funny)

Politburo (640618) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Extremely easy to disable, and more info (5, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 8 years ago | (#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?

Re:Extremely easy to disable, and more info (4, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446934)

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.

Re:Extremely easy to disable, and more info (4, Interesting)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Extremely easy to disable, and more info (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447063)

But it can also be argued, correctly, that this improves the user experience with iTunes (aside from the broader privacy argument).

Then they can watch my surfing and purchase habits inside the *store* (which I am 110% sure that they already do). They don't need to track my listening habits for music that was not purchased in their store. Just because I am using their software doesn't mean they should be able to receive information about *everything* I listen to on it.

Since when was spying on people just because they utilize your software something that people found acceptable?

Ask permissions or conditions of use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14447074)

No. Absolutely not. Especially when they didn't ask my permission first.

They don't have to ask your permission first. Their tracking of your habits can simply be a condition of their license that allows you to use their program. Did you fully read the EULA for iTunes and iTMS? Just because they are nice and might provide you with a way to turn tracking off, doesn't mean that they are required to do it by default.

Re:Extremely easy to disable, and more info (1)

Ghostx13 (255828) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447157)

No. Absolutely not. Especially when they didn't ask my permission first.

I'd agree with you 100% accept for the fact that suggesting music you might like is part of what iTunes does. Now if iTunes was watching your browsing habits and searches and then used that info to suggest music, then that would be wrong.

But that's not what it's doing. It's not being deceptive, or lying about what it does. You've installed a piece of software and it states right there on www.apple.com/itunes that "while you're browsing your own music, the MiniStore will automatically show you more music from your favorite artists that you can find at the iTunes Music Store." If you didn't read what the software does your ignorance is your own fault. Blaming Apple because you failed to read a little bit is stupid.

Re:Extremely easy to disable, and more info (1)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447006)

Don't let the facts get in the way of paranoia. And I just have to ask, so what? Most people do not care, many who understand the isse don't mind, and some of those prob get value from this feature. Arn't there more important things to stir up shit about?

Re:Extremely easy to disable, and more info (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447040)

Windows Media Player does exactly the same thing, when I put in a cd it gets info from their website. Presumably they track/store this information.

Re:Extremely easy to disable, and more info (-1, Troll)

tpgp (48001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447068)

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".

Did you read the same article I did?
the fact that Apple is both sending information from your copy of iTunes, along with cookie information that may identify you, as well as sending song information to a metrics server, seems to be a serious breach of trust. (And their end-user license agreement, or EULA, contains no language that suggests they will do so.)
Cookie info, metrics and nothing in the EULA. Looks like a serious cock-up on Apple's part to me.

Cue the Apple apologists however - after all, people who accept DRM, will accept anything.

Re:Extremely easy to disable, and more info (2, Insightful)

spectre_240sx (720999) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447094)

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.

Re:Extremely easy to disable, and more info (1)

Zebra_X (13249) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447148)

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.

And that my friend is the problem. Full disclosure is needed about what the progam is gathering and sending back to their servers. And of course, you should always have the option of opting out of this sort of business.

If I recall correctly, Real got into a great deal of legal trouble for using undisclosed techniques such as this.

seems like it could be okay (4, Informative)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446909)

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.

Simple solution.... (0, Redundant)

Boap (559344) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446915)

I always assumed that iTunes did this. If you do not like apple having any of your data do not do business with them at all.

Dear gawd. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14446917)

You mean they know that I listen to Brittany Spears and the Spice Girls?!

Re:Dear gawd. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14446992)

Gosh! I need to get rid of my George Mickael tunes collection

Re:Dear gawd. (0, Redundant)

ettlz (639203) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447064)

You mean they know that I listen to Brittany Spears and the Spice Girls?!
Gosh! I need to get rid of my George Mickael tunes collection

And I my Buoy Geordge, Gurls Allow'd, and Hilary Duph.

A need to hide your music tastes? (1, Redundant)

nizo (81281) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446918)

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?

Re:A need to hide your music tastes? (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446972)

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?

I don't use iTMS because it's too expensive, the quality is crap, and I would first need to burn and recovert to another lossy format to play it elsewhere. I use iTunes to play the MP3s I do have though.

So, no, it shouldn't know my music prefences already.

Re:A need to hide your music tastes? (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447059)

Well if I was listening to Britney Spears all day and night I certainly wouldn't want anyone to find out about it! :-)

Re:A need to hide your music tastes? (1)

OldPappy (53227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447077)

Some of us don't purchase our music through iTunes. I noticed that iTunes still sends back the information of a track that has been double clicked to play.

Just wanted to let you know that there are some of us that aren't already being tracked by Apple. I have mixed emotions over this, but not enough to worry about this.

Malware? Maybe. Nagware? Certainly. (1)

tpgp (48001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446921)

I don't know about Malware - but it certainly includes that nagging, install shortcuts everywhere piece of nagware Quicktime.

Re:Malware? Maybe. Nagware? Certainly. (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447092)

Personally, I like the service it provides so I don't think I'll be disabling it, not till I play with it a bit first at least. I don't think it's premature to call it spyware until we know what is done with this information, since it is pretty obvious that it does need to be sent to Apple in order to have this feature. True, it probably is spyware, but let's wait and see what Apple has to say first.

So what? (4, Interesting)

Tyger (126248) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14446968)

So let me get this straight...

"If Apple does it, it must be OK."

That about sum it up?

Re:So what? (1)

ozydingo (922211) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447038)

It's no worse than Amazon tracking your purchase habbits and using it to suggest what other shoppers must buy
So let me get this straight...
"If Apple does it, it must be OK."
That about sum it up?
RTFP.

More info (3, Informative)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446931)

I found the following links since submitting the story:

Here [boingboing.net]
and
Here [since1968.com]

Malware?? (5, Insightful)

ShortSpecialBus (236232) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446936)

What is it doing that is malicious?

Spyware, sure, but not malware.

-stefan

What kind of music... (0, Offtopic)

mattkime (8466) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446937)

What kind of music do terrorists listen to??

Re:What kind of music... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14447000)

"Hail To The Chief."

i'm beggining to really hate this program (0, Offtopic)

Itanshi (861931) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446945)

i can't friggen turn it on!! i reinstalled it, updated it rebooted it won't turn on! i checked my firewall, that an't it. i checked processes and it says it is on. grrr

i'm on winamp now. malware or not, i call it idiot ware for the time being.

Re:i'm beggining to really hate this program (1)

pudding7 (584715) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447047)

I assume you're talking about iTunes? Funny, it works for millions of people out there, many (most?) of whom are not that computer savvy. Yet it doesn't work for you. You're blaming the program? I'd look at your system...

Nothing new - who cares (1)

Zuke8675309 (470025) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446946)

A) Not much different than what Amazon does.

B) Use winamp, xmms, or

iTunes is Malware? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14446947)

O RLY?

Impossible!!! (4, Funny)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446948)

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!!

OMG! (2, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446950)

From the blurb: 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...

You know if this was Sony or Microsoft there would be howls of anger and the pitchforks and torches would already be out. Apple does it and; "hey, they're swell guys but I don't know how comfortable I am about this".

WTF? Where has all the anger gone?

If Steve Jobs was a record exec we'd have a battle cry that he should be flogged in public and put in the stocks for no less than 28.7 years.

Re:OMG! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14447051)

Four words:

Market share. Track record.

Re:OMG! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14447097)

You know if this was Sony or Microsoft there would be howls of anger and the pitchforks and torches would already be out. Apple does it and; "hey, they're swell guys but I don't know how comfortable I am about this".

WTF? Where has all the anger gone?

If Steve Jobs was a record exec we'd have a battle cry that he should be flogged in public and put in the stocks for no less than 28.7 years.


QFT.

Re:OMG! (2, Interesting)

ozydingo (922211) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447116)

Does WMP do this? Ya know, I don't really know, but it wouldn't surprise me if it did. And my reaction woulndn't be any different. I am by NO means an Apple fanboy, but I just don't find anything outrageous about this. I just assumed software like iTunes would do this sort of thing, but that's not really the main reason I'm not using it. Corporation tracks what music I listen to on their software? I don't really give a shit. But I still don't use iTunes.

Re:OMG! (4, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447133)

Maybe because it can be disabled? Maybe because it doesn't root your computer? Maybe because it just isn't as bad as the stuff Sony and MS pull on a regular basis? Maybe there is no conspiracy?

I accept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14446954)

It's probably in the fine print of that huge ageement you click "I accept" to when you first install iTunes or upgrade it.

Amazon is malware! (5, Funny)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446955)

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

Re:Amazon is malware! (2, Insightful)

mopslik (688435) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447031)

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 casually listening to MP3s via iTunes, your personal data is being collected and sent from your own computer.

Re:Amazon is malware! (1)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447089)

Hehehe. I knew it would only be a minute before someone pointed this out. Yes, the difference is that the MiniStore shows you recommendations based on tracks you select in your library. This is a big difference. At this point I don't think it's clear whether they're actually collecting the data or just using it to refer similar tracks. However, since you can disable it, I'm not too worried.

Re:Amazon is malware! (1)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447057)

There is a subtle difference. In this case, iTunes is using your computer and internet connection to accumulate data about what you do on your personal machine. It then uses this to try and pimp its own products. And all of it seems to be secret (until now).

Re:Amazon is malware! (1)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447127)

And all of it seems to be secret (until now).

Yes, for the full 20 hours or so that you've been able to get iTunes 6.0.2. Not to mention, this feature is advertised quite clearly on the iTunes page. Hardly a "secret".

Re:Amazon is malware! (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447109)

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.

Re:Amazon is malware! (1)

BuR4N (512430) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447126)

Add GMail to that list.

seriously... (1)

Heem (448667) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446962)

Seriously... does that REALLY surpise ANYONE here?

I didn't think so.

You've been outed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14446966)

Thanks to your collection of Village People mp3s. :P

A big deal? (1)

Mayhem178 (920970) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446971)

Depends on you perspective of it, I suppose. To some, this isn't a big deal at all.

I agree that not being given the option to disable such a feature is, if not underhanded, at least a sign of indifference. I mean, how difficult is it to simply add a prompt to allow or disallow usage reporting during installation? Not very. The fact that they didn't provide such a choice says a lot about how they view their customers.

On the other hand, how far are we, as customers, going to take this? Anymore it seems like people start an outrage over every privacy issue they can come up with. Seriously, you're never going to have complete privacy. Unless you become a hermit and shut yourself off from society, someone is always gonna take an interest in what you're doing. And you know what? I feel a lot safer knowing that people can't slink about completely undetected.

Anyways, I don't use iTunes, so...maybe my perspective on things is skewed.

iTunes is Malware? (5, Informative)

SageMadHatter (546701) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446976)

No. It is not.
Malware definition [wikipedia.org]

Perhaps the news submitter ment to use the term spyware?

Oh, build a damned bridge.... (4, Insightful)

nvrrobx (71970) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446977)

...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.

Re:Oh, build a damned bridge.... (1)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447156)

The concern lies in the fact that the disclosure of this info was done secretly. Users should have been prompted as to whether they wanted to have such info transmitted.

Please (5, Funny)

goaty_the_flying_sho (861224) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Please (1)

eargang (935892) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447067)

I resent that statement. ...I'm using a pre-release MacBook Pro, thank you very much.

Who give a rat flying f*? (1)

TheDoctorWho (858166) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446988)

I mean really? They are updating a database with songs you listen too? OMFG!!! IT's the end of the analogue world for good!!!

Too many paranoid nerds. Don't like it, don't use it. And if they do it, sue them. This crap is getting really old on all fronts. From the Corps using it, to the site like this continually reporting it.

SO WHAT?

Why is this so bad? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446993)

First off it is not hurting your computer like Malware, or changing other apps to act differently it is part of the application. Secondly Apple already knows what song you download, (hence they need to bill you) All they are really doing now is figuring out how many times you listen to the music. To target their advertising to you, to give the best guess you want to hear. If you like heavy metal then you don't want to see advertisements (which are going to be there anyways) for Country Music. When you go to the Apple iTunes store you are normally there with the attempt to buy something you like. Much like how many of the adds on Slashdot are computer geek related, and many of the adds on apple sites are apple related. Honestly "the Man" is not going to get you for listening to this song 500 times vs 5 times. All the man is going to do is realize you like the song better then others and will offer you similar ones you may like as well.

So What? (4, Interesting)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 8 years ago | (#14446997)

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".

Malware is not the word (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447007)

From Omniture, Apple, iTunes, and Privacy [since1968.com] on since1968.com: I've installed Little Snitch and can confirm this behavior: if you launch iTunes on a Mac with the new MiniStore open (and it's open by default), iTunes attempts to contact 207.net, otherwise known as Omniture. See the screenshot above. And why on earth does a third party need to bury its IP address behind a string that looks like an intranet (local) address?

Call it market-ware (as if we need another tech term) if you like. On the one hand, Apple's trying to tailor content to its iTunes users and that is supposed to be a good thing. On the other hand, they are in league with marketers and are pulling this off in a slightly underhanded fashion. What does Apple have to hide?

SPYware maybe but Malware? (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447014)

Does itunes deserve this hype? Obviously they can track what you buy, why does what you listen to the most matter?

Ok, seriously! (3, Interesting)

Rantastic (583764) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447021)

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?

You might be a redneck when... (5, Funny)

Mrs. Grundy (680212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447027)

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.

Re:You might be a redneck when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14447090)

But does it really make up for the fact that the mini-store is constantly telling you that the most popular classical artist is Anrdrea Bocelli?

You actually want this to happen (3, Interesting)

chriss (26574) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447035)

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]

Re:You actually want this to happen (1)

Tyger (126248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447134)

Well said. (Where's a mod point when you need it?) I'm still not even convinced that Apple is even tracking data rather than just using each selection as an individual point of reference to suggest songs. Even if they are, and I used iTunes, I'd have no problem with it.

wacky recommendations (1)

DarkClown (7673) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447042)

That's weird, I had been curious why it was recommending things like reo speedwagon and kenny rogers in the music store - I have no idea how it gets this based on my musical taste. It comes semi-close audiobook wise.

Is it in the EULA? (2)

OctoberSky (888619) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447045)

Whats the EULA say on this, if anything. If it says "iTunes will search your music, send information found to Apple and from this recommend you artists/songs" then there is nothing to cry about.

Someone get the EULA, scan it for info related to this and then we can talk Malware/Spyware. If it's there and you click Agree, then there is nothing to bitch about.

Great (1)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447048)

This should be really good for podcasters, they should get a nice set of statistics.

As for music, start shifting over to pod-safe music and lose this RIAA shit. Independent no-label music has been becoming much better and easier to find within the past half year or so. Many music-oriented podcasts have shifted to entirely pod-safe music.

One of the better new music podcasts is Podsafe Music Daily. It's around a half hour a day with a "Best-of" on Friday. If you set it up to record this, you'll always have a little something legal to listen to.

There are other legal podcasts, by the way. My favorite is "Coverville". Although it's not generally indi music, Brian has a license to "Broadcast" the songs.

As far as tracking the music goes, I really don't know if they are doing anything worse than Google or MSN or any of the other sites that collect information--at least they are offering a fantastic service in exchange.

Itunes and porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14447050)

I can't wait until we get ITUNES telling us what porn we might wan't to watch next.

Nothing new (1)

fuentes (711192) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447053)

How do you think Tivo Suggest works?

Big Deal (1)

SiO2 (124860) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447070)

Think about it. If you buy music from the iTunes Music Store, Apple already knows what you've purchased and probably has a good idea about your listening habits.

Nothing to see here.

SiO2

I wish! (1)

ObligatoryUserName (126027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447072)

iTunes recommends songs based on what you've purchased. Unfortunatly, they do a somewhat good job of it and keep recommending albums I already own and have in iTunes. You can click an "I already own that" button, but what a pain! Someone should recommend they add this tracking feature you speak of.

Overreacting... (1)

slungsolow (722380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447082)

It is no worse than using gmail and getting ads based on the contents of an email.

Who gives a crap. No one here uses iTunes cuz it isn't linux based. :)

Its ok (1)

ad0gg (594412) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447093)

Its ok because it's apple doing it.

Steve i want to have your baby!!!

malware? (1)

AxemRed (755470) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447102)

I woudln't call it malware. It's not specifically meant to hurt you.

Now adware, spyware, and bloatware... that's a different story.

Yes it is... (4, Funny)

TedTschopp (244839) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447106)

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...

BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14447110)

bs

OMG!!! The sky is falling!!!! (2, Funny)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447113)

"it raises concerns over privacy."

What? are you afraid it might get out that you listen to Britney Spears?

Windows Media Player (5, Insightful)

brettlbecker (596407) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447120)

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

Maybe this will improve their selection? (5, Interesting)

SpaceAdmiral (869318) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447132)

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.

Pandora anyone? (1)

teklob (650327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447136)

Pandora (http://www.pandora.com/ [pandora.com] ) does EXACTLY this, and when it was discussed [slashdot.org] on Slashdot a few months ago, it was praised as being a huge innovation in music technology. What's the difference, and more importantly, whats the big deal?

But it's not Microsoft! (4, Insightful)

saleenS281 (859657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447143)

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.

OMG, it's another... (1)

d474 (695126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14447149)

Bad apple! Bad apple!

But seriously, do you think any of the iPod drones care that the "cool company" is tracking their musical habits? "As if!!" (blond girl continues on bobbing her head to the iPod, roller blading down the Venice beach boardwalk chewing on her bubble gum....)
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