Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Apple and The NSA, Two Of A Kind?

Unauthorized, (illegal, and warrantless) wiretapping of Americans has been rearing it's ugly head all over the media recently. But instead of the NSA, the culprit du Jour is Apple. As first revealed at BoingBoing, it seems that the new version of iTunes has a new mini-store feature that actually checks out what you're listening to from your library and then suggests other music from it.

I have mixed feelings about this. I purposely downloaded audioscrobbler and happily use last.fm which really provide similar functionality. But that download and installation was my choice. Sliding that feature in, unannounced was a dirty trick and I don't appreciate it. At the very least they should have set the default to disable the feature, and only allowed transmission of data if the user opted-in to take advantage of it. I really cannot believe they did this, especially in the wake of the Sony DRM nonsense.

Does this shatter my faith in Apple and do I think they share more sinister motives with my nemesis in DC? Nope. I really think that they thought this was part of their user-friendly attitude to create an immersive music tool for their customers. For me it's a trivial sin as I enjoy participating in the whole collaborative filtering process.

1 comment:

Mike / 75 Minutes said...

I was pretty shocked when I first saw the feature too, but I must admit, I think all the fuss that was made over it was blown drastically out of proportion. Apple came out rather quickly and said on the record that they were not storing any data whatsoever, so no tracking was going on. Then after a couple days they re-engineered it so that the mini-store was disabled and you had to click a button to enable it. This done without having to download any updates.

Shows that Apple, while still a corporation trying to create profit for their shareholders, strongly listens to their customers and looks out for them as well. I'd say this is just a case of Apple's engineers knowing that nothing nefarious was going on, so they looked at the feature as a plus. However, the ambiguity left the door open to questions about what was going on behind the scenes.