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iTunes Mini Store Privacy Debacle: Apple's solution


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iTunes Mini Store Privacy Debacle: Apple's solution
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chucker
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: near Bremen, Germany
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2006-01-18, 02:40

I don't think this was posted yet; apologies if it was.

First, a quick review for those who don't know what I'm talking about. With the introduction of iTunes 6.0.2 after the MWSF keynote, Apple somewhat quietly slipped in a new feature called the Mini Store. I say somewhat quietly since, in Software Update, this was not mentioned at all:
Quote:
With iTunes 6, you can preview, buy, and download over 2,000 music videos and hit TV shows on the iTunes Music Store and sync your music and purchased videos with iPod to enjoy on the go. To watch purchased videos, you must have QuickTime 7.0.3 or later and Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.

iTunes 6.0.2 includes stability and performance improvements over iTunes 6.0.1.

Note: After purchasing music from the iTunes Music Store with iTunes 6 or later, you will also need to upgrade your other computers that purchase music from the iTunes Music Store to the latest version of iTunes.
For those who downloaded manually, however, it was:
Quote:
Discover new music as you enjoy your collection or import new CDs with MiniStore — right from your iTunes library.
In fact, you find out that there's two other new features (movie transcoding for the iPod and multi-destination AirTunes) as well.

Now, what this feature does is add a little new pane (oh no, not another) to the bottom of your iTunes window (if you're in a suitable source, e.g. Library or a particular playlist, but sadly, not in Party Shuffle). Information about the song you're currently playing is transmitted to the store, and if they have a match, they try and find other stuff from the same artist, including customers' ratings, not to mention other artists you might care about.

So it's a bit like the "Just For You" feature, except it applies to any music, not just what you purchased (off iTMS), and it's in the context of what you're playing right this very moment.

So what is, or was, the problem?

1) It used to be without the customer's consent. Not everyone will want Apple to know what they're playing right now. Apple has expressly stated that they do not store this information in any way whatsoever, but strangely,
2) the user ID, which should be irrelevant in this case, is transmitted as well.
3) you can turn it off, in which case no information is transmitted at all, but per default, it is on (after the upgrade).

Now if you ask me, regardless, it's just a little feature that helps you buy more stuff, which means more revenues for Apple, yadda yadda. No real privacy issue at all. But a lot of people disagree, and more power to them.

So there was a minor outrage in the blogosphere, on Slashdot, and so on. Has Apple reacted (aside from their "no, we don't store stuff" response)? Yes! They finally have. As of a few hours before (I haven't noticed this before), the mini store does not immediately come up. Rather, an introduction page appears, letting you know exactly what is going to happen, exactly how you can turn it off (with a cute little arrow), and that the feature is entirely optional.

A very great solution that nobody could disagree with, if you ask me.
  quote
mercury7
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
 
2006-01-18, 06:24

Excellent, this satisfy's me, I am glad apple took this seriously enough to address it. thanks Apple!
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dfiler
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Pittsburgh
 
2006-01-18, 09:45

It's starting to look like every company will eventually include consumer-data spyware in their software.

Seriously. It is so easy for companies to collect info and send it back to the mothership. The trend is already taken for granted on websites, cookies are just expected. We expect companies to track our movements, keep stats, and even sell that data.

Google knows what you search for. BBC knows what news you read. Apple knows what you listen to...

It'll be intesting to see how each culture around the world incorporates this into their morals. What is acceptable and what isn't?
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chucker
 
Join Date: May 2004
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2006-01-18, 09:56

Turn it off (or, thanks to this change, never turn have it turned on to begin with), and no data is transmitted. Personally, I don't think there's any worry in this particular case.
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bassplayinMacFiend
Banging the Bottom End
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
 
2006-01-18, 10:10

I remember when Real got caught doing this and it was very bad for them, with lawsuites, etc. I'm surprised the uproar (if it can be called that) has been very low now that Apple is doing this.

I thought one of the advantages of being on a Mac was the lack of spyware. Now Apple is putting it in their own software.

I'm happy this option can be turned off (and have done so), but I'm sure this is just the beginning of increased Apple monitoring. After all, software update knows just what Apple software is on your computer that needs updating. You think Apple doesn't receive this information? Do you?
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curiousuburb
Antimatter Man
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: that interweb thing
 
2006-01-18, 10:14

Quote:
Originally Posted by chucker
I don't think this was posted yet; apologies if it was.
Yes it was posted... apology accepted given that you've added more detail.

Good to hear they've resolved it by adding more clarification and not presuming you immediately want to share data.
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Wraven
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Texas
 
2006-01-18, 10:15

Christ,
Are you guys not reading the first post? Apple has turned this off by default now!
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chucker
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: near Bremen, Germany
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2006-01-18, 10:16

Quote:
Originally Posted by curiousuburb
Yes it was posted... apology accepted given that you've added more detail.

Good to hear they've resolved it by adding more clarification and not presuming you immediately want to share data.
I don't see you mentioning the fact that they've "given in" in that thread. Maybe these two threads should be merged together.
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foundinlife30
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Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Chicago
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2006-01-18, 10:28

I'm glad they did it, if for no other reason, then to calm the herd. It didn't bother me. I turned it off right away. It doesn't send info when closed. Solved my problem with it.
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curiousuburb
Antimatter Man
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: that interweb thing
 
2006-01-18, 10:54

Quote:
Originally Posted by chucker
I don't see you mentioning the fact that they've "given in" in that thread. Maybe these two threads should be merged together.
Their original reaction (posting a page telling people how to turn it off), which I noted, helped address the privacy issue by offering a fix, but still presumed data mining was ok with folks (which it isn't by me), because the app shipped with the store enabled by default.

Their latest reaction (default off and detailed info -within the app- ), which you noted, helped address the PR issue and the privacy issue by presuming people should be informed first, and seems to have shipped with the warning enabled, rather than the store itself.

Related threads and solutions... looks like the blogosphere is gaining leverage...
hopefully Apple learns the bigger lesson about presuming privacy and starting with clear information and intent.
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SledgeHammer
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2006-01-18, 11:53

Quote:
Originally Posted by dfiler
It's starting to look like every company will eventually include consumer-data spyware in their software.

Seriously. It is so easy for companies to collect info and send it back to the mothership. The trend is already taken for granted on websites, cookies are just expected. We expect companies to track our movements, keep stats, and even sell that data.

Google knows what you search for. BBC knows what news you read. Apple knows what you listen to...

It'll be intesting to see how each culture around the world incorporates this into their morals. What is acceptable and what isn't?
Though it may have fallen into the category of "spyware" when it was shipped with the mini-store on by default (I don't think it did) it definitely doesn't now that you must expressly turn it on. It would not be a very good spy that announced himself and his intentions to you before doing his reconnaissance .
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