Tuesday, June 05, 2007

iTunes Plus, tagging tracks with personal info, should I care?

Podcast Icon (c) Apple Computer, Inc

Why is everyone getting their knickers in a twist over Apple embedding buyer’s information in music tracks downloaded from the whizzy new DRM-free iTunes Plus?

Customers are buying these tracks and their DRM-locked predecessors to be used according to the iTunes licence (that we’ve all clicked to acknowledge that we’ve read, whether we have or not). So sharing of the files outside your household’s shared collection of iPods is verboten.

So given that the new DRM-free tracks are instantly sharable between iPod/iTunes users, it seems reasonable that Apple would embed user information that could be used to track the spread of music around the world as people break the licensing agreement. Much like Microsoft track the spread of the most common pirated Windows XP licence keys that float around the web.

Although I haven’t yet noticed a comment from Apple on this latest ruckus, there’s a commonly repeated suggestion that the DRMed tracks already had this tracking information in them (presumably in case someone broke the DRM protection and they wanted to measure how bad their music was diffusing across the internet).

Is this a gross invasion of my privacy? Do I care?

Well, I admit I wasn’t overly aware that the few tracks I’d downloaded from iTunes (mostly using a free voucher) were tagged with my details. But given that I’m not an advocate for piracy, it’s not overly concerning.

When I check into a hotel, they know who I am. When I buy a TV they take my name and home address. When Tesco or Sainsbury’s send me a money-off voucher, it’s got my name and details stamped all over it (even if the vouchers can probably be given to someone else to use).

So why shouldn't Apple retain some ability to discover when their usage licence is being breached? If Apple could only admit this is what they do, I don’t see anything wrong with their tagging of downloaded tracks.

Maybe you disagree?

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