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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore Apps
Major Update:

I have just received confirmation from Apple directly (from a confirmed source I trust implicitly) that absolutely no information is being collected from the MiniStore (though clearly data is sent to make the feature work). Therefore, the following article is now simply a hint about an obvious feature (disabling the MiniStore), which I wouldn't typically run. However, in the interest of not rewriting history to avoid my mistakes, I have not changed any of the original text, though I did change the hint's title, and move the rest of the story 'below the break.'

So I'll apologize for jumping to conclusions, but not for helping bring the issue to light. And thanks to Apple for clarifying that no data is collected; you didn't have to contact me directly, yet you did, and I appreciate that.

-rob.


Apple's iTunes 6.0.2 update, released yesterday, offered this, according to the Read Me:
iTunes 6.0.2 includes stability and performance improvements over iTunes 6.0.1.
What it also offered, but didn't bother to disclose, was the addition of a bit of spyware to the iTunes interface. As reported on boingboing and other sites, the new iTunes mini store, which appears directly below the song list area in the main iTunes window, spies on your listening habits. You are not told this is happening, but it's clear that it must be -- the store's selections change each time you listen to a new song. So at a minimum, artist and title information must be being sent to the music store, each and every time you listen to a new song. I don't know what other data may or may not be collected, but even just title and artist is enough to concern me.

Thankfully, there's an easy workaround. Kirk McElhearn used tcpdump to verify that if you simply disable the mini store (Edit: Hide Ministore, or just Shift-Command-M), then no data is transmitted. So that's the hint -- if you value the privacy of your listening habits, then hide the mini store.

This is the first thing Apple's done with iTunes and the store that's really struck me as going 'over the line.' In past iTunes releases, the store and your library were always distinct. Sure, you could click the link to jump from a song to the store, but there was no direct tie-in. But the mini store makes the tie-in direct, and since it's sending your listening habits without your explicit permission, it's clearly a feature that could be described as spyware. Thankfully, iTunes doesn't continue to send the data when the mini store is hidden, so I would recommend hiding it ASAP, at least until there's a better understanding of exactly what data's being collected, and how that data can be used by Apple. (I can't find anything about this data collection in iTunes, the Music Store itself, or Apple's website-centric privacy policy.)

Update: As noted in the comments, the store only updates when you select a song, not as playlists play. Sorry for any confusion...
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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore | 105 comments | Create New Account
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Missing permalinks from spotlight article titles
Authored by: frankko on Jan 11, '06 07:38:41AM

Rob, if I'm not mistaken, you (or someone) added the "permalinks" to titles of articles, right? Because it would seem "spotlight articles" didn't get that change.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: jammjamm on Jan 11, '06 07:45:07AM

This makes me sick. I don't want Apple to constantly recommend something for me to buy. But this is exactly what all the new updates to their software products seem to be pushing, harder and harder all the time.



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Recommendations increasing? Doubt it.
Authored by: the_banton on Jan 11, '06 07:50:43AM

-- Recommending to buy --

All stores will recommend you to buy all the time, personalization merely gives you option you MIGHT want to buy. You know, no heavy metal for country chicks and no jazz for trance addicts. People like it, that's why it's so popular.

---
http://kingmuffin.blogspot.com - Mind Itch



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Recommendations increasing? Doubt it.
Authored by: jammjamm on Jan 11, '06 09:05:53AM

So iTunes is a STORE now? And iPhoto too (books)? And with all the tie-ins to .Mac, it seems like all of iLife is becoming a store too. And soon, the entire OS will be one big store...



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Recommendations increasing? Doubt it.
Authored by: adrianm on Jan 11, '06 10:44:47AM

Maybe you should just turn the store off. It's in preferences. No big deal. Some people might actually like this.
I for one, never buy anything from the store, but I do like to browse.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Recommendations increasing? Doubt it.
Authored by: jammjamm on Jan 11, '06 11:12:37AM

FYI if you turn off the store, you alsdo lose the little arrows next to the artists and albums that, when you option-click, browses you to your music library instead of to their Music Store.

In other words, Apple's products are becoming more like MS's -- by default there are all kinds of tie-ins to various money-making schemes; in order to turn them off, you need to 1) know how to turn them off 2) lose functionality when you do turn them off and 3) sometimes can't turn them off (eg big iPhotos buttons to Book orders or .Mac tie-ins).



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Recommendations increasing? Doubt it.
Authored by: xeyr on Jan 11, '06 02:06:46PM

I turned the Mini Browser off and I still have all the links to iTMS - they're controlled in a separate preference.



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Recommendations increasing? Doubt it.
Authored by: aranor on Jan 11, '06 11:52:15PM

I use the hidden preference (I think InvertStoreLinks but I'm not sure) that swaps the behaviour of the iTMS store links, so clicking an arrow jumps to that song in my own list and opt-clicking jumps to the song in the music store.

And as for iTunes pushing the music store, well, what do you expect? I personally think it's pretty neat - if I'm in the mood to buy some music I'll probably enable the mini store and browse around my own and look at the suggestions. But if I'm not, I'll hide it.



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Recommendations increasing? Doubt it.
Authored by: zeusr on Jan 12, '06 05:10:47AM

The preference of "Show Links To The Music Store" is there there in the General preferences menu. Also, I used the hint (from somewhere, probably here) that switched the normal behaviour to have the arrows point to my library by default and need to option-click to have me sent to the store.

The Mini-Store was annoying in regards to screen real estate until I found how to disable it. But then I guess I'm already of the opinion that if you're on the net, you've given up any privacy...



[ Reply to This | # ]
Recommendations increasing? Doubt it.
Authored by: jammjamm on Jan 12, '06 02:39:50PM

>> The preference of "Show Links To The Music Store" is there there in the General preferences menu.

Yes, but if you turn off the music store (Preferences > Parental (!) > Disable Music Store), these arrows disappear.

One of the great things about Apple was that they wrote software that does what I want, not what their marketers have figured out would be a good way for them to leverage against me in the future. iTunes played and ripped MP3s, there were no default AOL ad icons, MSN ads, MS Chat in the tray, updater tied to a particulat browser, etc.

Clearly that has now changed. Every Apple product now has tie-ins to other Apple products and services that are for sale. These aren't just "integrated" features, they are ads (or "suggestions to buy"). I for one don't like it.



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That's not just sad, it's short-sighted
Authored by: Blah on Jan 13, '06 01:14:30PM
But then I guess I'm already of the opinion that if you're on the net, you've given up any privacy...
This statement is sadly indicative of a number of ignorant people these days. You lose your privacy when you *choose* to lose your privacy. The issue is far more important than most young people think.

There is no need to use services which delve into your own personal private matters. Not only that, but when you do you hurt others as well because you allow these companies' "features" to continue instead of nipping them in the bud immediately. Sad, sad, sad....

Use the sites/features you desire, but do NOT resign yourself to losing your privacy!

[ Reply to This | # ]
Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: the_banton on Jan 11, '06 07:45:52AM
Did he manage to check what was in the tcpdump? The original discussion is going on here, we'll keep ourselves updated in this topic as well.

---
http://kingmuffin.blogspot.com - Mind Itch

[ Reply to This | # ]

Slow down...
Authored by: darken9999 on Jan 11, '06 07:50:53AM

While I agree that there should probably be some sort of disclaimer that data is being sent, there's no need to make wild accusations.

Who's to say that they're collecting anything? Chances are that it's just sending the artist and album name to iTMS to get a specialized page. But even if they were collecting data, I can't imagine how that information could be misused.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Slow down...
Authored by: atakacs on Jan 11, '06 07:56:14AM
Agreed. This does nothing more than what clicking the arrow links from the library does. I'd be surprised if they even stored the information, I'd bet its just a quick session to get a match against whats going on.

Also the submitter seems to be slightly wrong.

The mini-store does NOT update as you listen. It ONLY updates what you have highlighted. Test this if you don't believe me, but if you start playing the last song in an album with a double-click, let it flow to the next song, the mini store will NOT UPDATE until you change your selection with the mouse.

I haven't looked at any tcpdumps, I don't have my mac here with me, but can someone compare what is being sent with the ministore vs the Library arrow links that have existed for a long while? I assume they are either identical or extremely similar

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Slow down...
Authored by: darken9999 on Jan 11, '06 07:58:52AM

The submitter is Rob, which makes me really want to choose my words carefully. :^)



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Slow down...
Authored by: robg on Jan 11, '06 08:23:52AM

They're transmitting a piece of data from my machine to their servers, without my knowledge or permission. At this point, whether they're collecting it or not, that's enough to reallly make me angry.

I agree, they're probably not collecting it, and perhaps I should have used a different term. But they could be collecting it ... and what if that data included your music store ID? Now they not only know what you're listening to, but exactly who you are...

-rob.



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Slow down...
Authored by: Gerk on Jan 11, '06 10:21:05AM
hey rob

I disagree, they ARE collecting it. Whether or not they are tying the data to you directly is another story altogether, but there is a ping sent, along with the transaction id of the search to a server called metrics.apple.com ... if that's not to collect data I don't know what is!

I put that info in my article at macdiscussion.com ... it doesn't have a big break down, just wanted to get the info out there to users to disable the mini store unless you have a specific need for it.

Nothing more detailed to give you on it (the ping is embedded in the XML file) and happens between apple's servers, but it hold the unique ID for your search without a doubt ... given that they can choose to (or not to) tie it back to whatever data they happen to collect ... eek!

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Slow down...
Authored by: atakacs on Jan 11, '06 11:27:24AM
Wait, if they included your music store ID, wouldn't they already know what you listen to based on your purchases?

I'm confused what are we worried about again?

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Slow down...
Authored by: pub3abn on Jan 11, '06 12:21:47PM

Your comment assumes you buy all your music from iTMS. Not everyone does.



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Slow down...
Authored by: lrosenstein on Jan 12, '06 10:52:47AM

The mini-store request does send what looks like an iTMS id. Search for X-Dsid in ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.iTunes.plist file. I have 2 machines authorized on the same iTMS account and they both have the same id, so it's not just a random number that is made up.

From what I've read, the information is actually sent to a 3rd party Apple has contracted with, so even if you were inclined to trust Apple with not retaining the information, it's not clear that should extend to another company.

Finally, it's not much of a stretch to contemplate the RIAA trying to subpoena this information because it would show what songs you have ripped to your computer, and they could compare that to music you have purchased.



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Slow down...
Authored by: drewk on Jan 11, '06 09:51:36AM

I beleive that Rob stated that there was a need for a published privacy policy by Apple covering this information. I think this is completely appropriate and prudent. *I* want control of the data on my computer, not others.



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Here's how it could be misused
Authored by: osxpounder on Jan 12, '06 11:15:19PM

A parent with a spotless reputation allows younger family member to use her Mac. That person downloads a song with a name like "Let's Get Butt Naked and F___" from some illegal source.

Parent later opens iTunes and finds recommendations for songs that offend her -- or perhaps cause trouble for the young user involved. Thus, 2 people might have a grievance against the iTMS for leaving traces of what young user was listening to.

Coincidentally, said parent is running for city council, and opposition or local journalist wardrives her home and finds "smutty songs" on her computer and "exposes" parent as purchaser of pornographic entertainment on the Internet. Well, that has nothing to do with the iTMS, but it makes a good story.

That's just a few scenarios. The obvious scenario is that iTMS notes all the titles our young user has illegally downloaded and shares list with RIAA.

---
--
osxpounder



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Another misuse scenario
Authored by: osxpounder on Jan 12, '06 11:25:33PM

You are a musician, and your original, published but free [as in beer] tracks are played in your iTunes on your Mac. For some reason, such as talent, many thousands of other people enjoy downloading your free tracks and playing them in their own iTunes.

iTMS collects titles, which show up in reports shared with marketers or RIAA, who see that many people seem to enjoy your track, "My X ate my Y", and decide to write their own, similar tune, with the same title, and market it. Your own work vanishes in the shadow of corporate marketing efforts to promote the ripoff song.

You write a song about that, but no one remembers or cares about your music anymore, you sad sod.

This has been a late-night fuel-for-paranoia scenario for entertainment purposes only.


---
--
osxpounder



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: pink on Jan 11, '06 07:56:51AM

This is not only a breach into our privacy, it is also a very, very dumb move by apple. Who says this thingy does not only submit information about the song playing but also about your complete Library (number of songs, number of songs coming in over time etc.) ? Very handy to spot the bad guys gathering music from "bad-karma" sources (as Steve might put it). This very probably is not what it does, but just the vague idea of such a thing happening could make people run away in crowds from iTunes. And Apple being so silent about the thing does not improve matters.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: restiffbard on Jan 11, '06 07:59:04AM

Does this mean that someone is going to start getting the hint that I can't stand Bubblegum pop and that I value Marsalis more than Mariah? If so, collect away, Apple.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: salvo on Jan 11, '06 10:59:25AM

Unfortunately, the Music Aficionados like you, me and most real Music Geeks will disable this feature, while the 13yo Teenybopper Girls will not know how or why they should disable it.
This will mean that, just like Television Ratings, The Music Ratings will be biased away from Quality Productions, and towards Mainstream Pop Trash.



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Not the first time
Authored by: earthsaver on Jan 11, '06 08:00:28AM
"This is the first thing Apple's done with iTunes and the store that's really struck me as going 'over the line.' In past iTunes releases, the store and your library were always distinct."

I disagree. The MiniStore is not the first case of iTunes knowing what we listen to. OK, so it's now actively listening to what we're actively listening to, but the Just for You section that debuted in the last revision to the iTunes Music Store sends to Apple info about the music we've bought or own to construct itself.

It all works the same way Amazon does. How many of you don't use Amazon?, because you don't want the company to try its best to make your browsing/buying experience easier. Isn't this what customer service is all about?!

Anyway, this "hint" is one more piece of proof that iTunes has made your appreciation of music a less social experience. Before iTMS and DRM, how many people didn't share the music they bought on CD with their friends and family?

Now, you're saying you don't want anyone else to know what you're enjoying? How better can we spread the word about great artists? than to rate and review music we like so others will buy and enjoy it too. I think we ought to contentedly use iTunes as a resource and a conduit for music appreciation.

---
- Ben Rosenthal
Q16 1.25 - Tiger

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Not the first time
Authored by: kirkmc on Jan 11, '06 08:26:14AM

You say:

"I disagree. The MiniStore is not the first case of iTunes knowing what we listen to. OK, so it's now actively listening to what we're actively listening to, but the Just for You section that debuted in the last revision to the iTunes Music Store sends to Apple info about the music we've bought or own to construct itself."

You're wrong. The Just For You depends on your purchases, not your listening habits. As can be seen, iTunes sends no info if the MiniStore is hidden. If it did, then what you say above might be correct...

---
Read my blog: Kirkville -- http://www.mcelhearn.com
Musings, Opinion and Miscellanea, on Macs, iPods and more



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Not the same as JUST FOR YOU
Authored by: morespace54 on Jan 11, '06 09:24:13AM

Actually, the "Just for you" section of ITMS needs you to:
a) buy a song or album or
b) tell them that you "already own it" or "don't like it".

Which means that YOU NEED to do something for the store to know what or who you are. The "mini-store" do it by itself, which is completely different and wrong IMO...

go Rob, go!



[ Reply to This | # ]
This IS different from "Just For You"
Authored by: JimAkin on Jan 11, '06 08:42:45AM

It's true that Just For You uses information about music we've purchased and own to make suggestions, but only information we've given Apple proactively, by making a purchase or clicking the "Already Own It" button.

Collecting information about my personal library on the sly -- without a clear explanation of how that information will be used, whether it'll be stored or associated with my iTMS account information, etc. is intrusive and troubling.

Which makes this a doubly stupid move on Apple's part, IMHO: I actually like the idea of having a recemmendation engine that's aware of my total library, because the number of tunes I've purchased through iTMS is only the tiniest fraction of my music collection -- and Just For You therefore generates loads of skewed or irrelevant recommendations. I'd be willing to give iTMS a look at my library, as long as Apple gave me clear assurances that the information would be kept confidential; that any profile it generated would be kept separate from my personal info; that it wouldn't be sold; and that I'd be able to purge my profile if/when I wanted to, or if Apple's usage policy ever changed.

Unfortunately, this ministore thing is probably going to set back any efforts at getting people to share their libraries for use in what could be a really amazing music-referral resource (especially if Apple didn't confine recommendations to stuff it carries in the music store).

Cheers.

---
Jim

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This IS different from "Just For You"
Authored by: Barney-15 on Jan 12, '06 05:50:08AM
Collecting information about my personal library on the sly

But it doesn't. It looks at what you are playing and offers something you might also like. I know it isn't comparing what I own to a database of what I've bought because it offers me the same album the song came from. As Robg said, Apple is not collecting information. Could they? Sure. Are they? No.

I think it is a great service, for me. When I get tired of it offering me stuff I already own, I guess I may turn it off. Perhaps they could collect data so that it only showed me what I don't own. Now that would be a service ;)

---
Jim

[ Reply to This | # ]

Not the first time
Authored by: Blah on Jan 13, '06 01:52:38PM
It all works the same way Amazon does. How many of you don't use Amazon?, because you don't want the company to try its best to make your browsing/buying experience easier. Isn't this what customer service is all about?!
Me.

I don't use Amazon at all because I find the harvesting and aggregation of customers' personal information completely vile. This is not specific to Amazon, but it was an easy reply to your question. Yes, I am in the minority, but as people become more mindful of the long-term ugly side to loss of privacy in the commercial world (and eventually government, don't fool yourself, they're not dumb. When enough information they want is accumulated, they will get it), things will change.

The problem is that once the information enters "the system", it's very difficult, sometimes impossible, to remove it. Now you're stuck.

Instead of the myopic view of what's in it for me today, you need to look at the curve and extrapolate. If people embrace commercial gathering and use of their personal information, it will continue to get worse. At least until the point people rebel. If it's not too late.

Think. At 37 you find some extremely important community issues and decide to run for public office. But wait, somewhere there is aggregated information from various sites about things you read or did or listened to 10 years ago. Guess what? It's not going to be a secret for long. Can you rebuff it? Pooh-pooh it as something you did when you were young? Perhaps. But do you want to risk it? There are a thousand scenarios of potential problems, and all of them will exist because people cared about the momentary gratification of having something thrown in front of their face that they might like better than an alternative.

I'm not saying the goal of any of these companies is evil - they just want to sell more products! But face it. You're falling into the marketing machine's ugly grasp when you kowtow to this stuff....

Okay, enough ramble-ranting. Hopefully at least someone gets the point.



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Somewhat technically incorrect
Authored by: macevangelist on Jan 11, '06 08:02:00AM

Quote:
So at a minimum, artist and title information must be being sent to the music store, each and every time you listen to a new song.

Fact:
The mini store content changes ONLY when the selection changes to another SINGLE track or SINGLE album.

When the next song begins playing the mini store content does NOT change even though the song might be or might not be from the same artist or album.

When the user hits the appropriate buttons or presses the keyboard shortcuts for the next or previous song the mini store content, again, does NOT change.

So if Apple wants to collect data on what I'm selecting that's one thing but accusing Apple of introducing spyware to the Mac and sniffing user's listening habits that's a very serious allegation and is not backed by what is plain to see in iTunes.

If I begin to play music in the morning and let it shuffle through-out bed time without touching iTunes only one set of data has been sent to Apple. That of the song I started with.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: Greenfruit on Jan 11, '06 08:08:24AM

I wasnt so sure about this when I saw it first either.

But now, I think thats a slight over reaction. As others have said, it only changes when you click on a track and theres no way its sending the WHOLE library.

I really like it, and think its a good feature. I spent 30mins going through my favourite artists seeing if Id missed any albums. Nice.

---
http://www.somefoolwitha.com/ - blog
"Coming up, I'll tell you exactly what to think." Chris Morris, Brass Eye
-Powerbook



[ Reply to This | # ]
Chill out people
Authored by: macslut on Jan 11, '06 08:12:19AM

Really...click that little icon under the mini store and all of your paranoid fears will disappear.

It's that simple and that easy...and that obvious as well (or at least should be).

Let the rest of us enjoy this feature.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Chill out people
Authored by: macevangelist on Jan 11, '06 08:22:13AM

Oh, be careful or those people start calling you liberal vermin.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Chill out people
Authored by: robg on Jan 11, '06 09:17:58AM

Then why wasn't it either shipped disabled, or at the least, covered in the read me? Apple tried to implement this on the sly.

I'm not typically paranoid; I actually wouldn't mind sharing info on my listening habits with Apple. But I want to know what's being shared, and that it won't be used in other marketing ploys.

-rob.



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Re: Chill out people
Authored by: Code Masseur on Jan 11, '06 11:11:17AM
Then why wasn't it either shipped disabled, or at the least, covered in the read me? Apple tried to implement this on the sly.

I'm not typically paranoid; I actually wouldn't mind sharing info on my listening habits with Apple. But I want to know what's being shared, and that it won't be used in other marketing ploys. -rob.

Rob,

There were likely a couple of reasons the Mini-Store is enabled by default. First, it's a new feature intended to increase music sales, and Apple wants to promote it. They are a corporation and profits are their goal, after all. Second, most users do not change the default settings of their applications unless they have to. To default the Mini-Store to disabled would have hampered it from the start. I'm satisfied these were some of the reasons.

However, Apple may have stumbled by not being more upfront about the privacy implications. The failure to disclose this can appear to some as a secretive move on Apple's part. Combined with the recent Sony BMG rootkit fiasco, this is unfortunate timing.

I don't think people should be as concerned about the marketing ploys as the RIAA getting its hands on this information. Is anyone concerned about this?

This is clearly a controversial topic, but I think we'll just have to wait and see how this information is used over the long run.

-Code M.

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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: muppetdog on Jan 11, '06 08:19:23AM

i agree with the poster above... if Apple wants to find out that i don't listen to 95 percent of the songs on iTMS--and decides to start carrying the music i DO listen to--well, that's fine with me!



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: Netzach on Jan 11, '06 08:26:34AM

Anyone that want to know what I'm listening to right now can just go to this adress: http://www.last.fm/user/Netzach

I send info on every song I play in iTunes to that server, so my friends and strangers can have at look.

I'm simply not paranoid. :-D

---
//Intelligence has it's boundaries, but stupidity is unlimited.



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Post your credit card number, too?
Authored by: JimAkin on Jan 11, '06 09:03:36AM

People who have access to your playlist at this site (i.e. basically everyone) don't also have your name, address, phone number and credit card information, the way Apple does. Nor could they be subpoenaed to provide that personal information.

Call it paranoia if you like, but when music publishers are going after developers of song-lyric shareware for iTunes, I don't think it's much of a stretch to think there are plenty of lawyers who'd love to comb thousands of song-library records for evidence (and "evidence") of unauthorized use.

And before you assume all who avoid pirated music would be safe in such a scenario, ask someone who's "passed" an IRS audit how well virtuous behavior shielded them from hassle and expense.

---
Jim

[ Reply to This | # ]

Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: vykor on Jan 11, '06 08:26:37AM

Hm. I guess I don't get the furor over this. Recommendation engines are all around. Your buying habits off Amazon are tracked so they can do similarity analysis and make recommendations. Your Gmail is being parsed so that Google can show you advertising links.

When I worked in intelligent information research, we did fairly similar sorts of things. Generating relevant information to assist the user in some user daily tasks by tracking useful actions and being self-aware enough to understand usage context and various metadata. While there are privacy issues to examine, intelligent information techniques != spyware.

I'm inclined to believe this still falls within the former category, albeit a rather simple form of it.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Cory Doctorow is an alarmist self-promoting whore
Authored by: Mikey-San on Jan 11, '06 08:28:17AM

Title says the jist of it.

Hide the mini store. End of problem.

Most people are going to hide the mini store, as well, so I really see this as a non-issue. Go look at Cory's posts to BoingBoing--they're 95% DRM and privacy rants, as though he were Bruce Freaking Schneier. He's not. He uses these sorts of alarmist posts to pimp himself and his books (look at how much self-promotion he does on BoingBoing if you don't believe me).

I'm tired of it, and wish people would stop linking to his banal tripe.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Cory Doctorow is an alarmist self-promoting whore
Authored by: robg on Jan 11, '06 09:21:32AM

OK, so leave boingboing out of it. Instead, let's try reporting this instead:

"Today, in a minor update to Office, it was discovered that the company is now collecting the names of every document you open to edit in Word or Excel. This data is used to present you with 'new templates to purchase' that will make future related projects much easier to complete. The data, however, is collected without the user's approval or knowledge, and the Office Read Me made no mention of this new feature."

Imagine the reaction of the collective Mac user base now. So why is it different just because it's Apple?

-rob.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Cory Doctorow is an alarmist self-promoting whore
Authored by: Mikey-San on Jan 11, '06 10:18:26AM

If the mini store pane is open, and I click on a song to play it, the items in the pane change. Either I'm completely retarded, or I understand that there isn't some sort of black magic going on here.

When I realize I don't want people suggesting music to me and cluttering up the window, I turn off/hide the mini store pane and data ceases to be transmitted. There is no longer any information going anywhere, and no one suggests other music for me.

In your example, you give no control over the transmission or collection of data. This is the core issue here. Go to Amazon.com and browse books and music for a moment--don't BUY anything, just browse. It remembers what you've seen, but if I want to stop this from happening, I disable cookies. In your example, if there's an easily located, obviously placed option in Excel to disable the data mining behaviour, then there isn't a problem; if not, people should ring the alarm.

This is about whether or not you can control the data that exists, not whether or not it does exist.

Cory and BoingBoing should be brought into this, because he is going to use BoingBoing to fan the flames of a non-issue. He needs a muzzle.



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Privacy, Apple, and the MS Analogy
Authored by: CarlosD on Jan 11, '06 12:30:21PM

There is clearly a need to separate issues to sort out whether Apple has "crossed the line":

  • Different people consider "the line" to be drawn in different places.
  • Individual levels of trust will vary for different companies. Trust is established on a one to one basis. Some will give MS less or more leeway than Apple based on their own perspective and history with the company. Will you ever put a Sony Music CD in your PC without some concern?
  • I believe the MS analogy is too broad a reach for this issue as there is a much greater threat from the type of information that may be gleaned from Office document titles than there is from mere music preferences.
  • Oddly enough, I think the bigger threat in terms of personal privacy is having access (potentially) to your subscribed podcasts.

The important questions to ask (with my thoughts/suggested answers):

  1. Were you informed that data was being sent? Well, not directly, no. Given the layout of iTunes, a greater than common level of computer knowledge would be needed to tell that data was being sent.
  2. Could you opt-in or easily opt-out of data transmission? I think this and the previous question highlight Apple's biggest error here. It is easy, but not clear and easy enough.
  3. Is the data being collected? While we know there is a send and reply, we do not know about whether is persists at Apple. Clearly, for you, this is disconcerting.
  4. Is the data personal? I think concern should increase if we saw ?user=blahblah@mac.com in the query string or cookie. I happen to know that Apple is very touchy about collecting info or appearing to be doing so. So the fact that some are up in arms means they have erred somewhat.
  5. Is the data being (or to be) used beyond the single mini store request/response? This is the heart of the privacy concern: What comes next?
Contextual and personalized online shopping is fairly standard today. To that end, I think Apple's keeping and using some data – to do things like "Just For You" – are justified, BUT only when you are
  • a store user AND
  • clearly within the store context...

OR

  • you have opted-in to the appearance of the mini store

The simple solution for Apple is to provide a first run dialog for the new mini store enabled version, much like is done where a first run of iTunes asks if you want to search for MP3s on your drive. The could do an opt-in, where they ask, "iTunes can now show store selections based on your existing library. Would you like to see this in your main window?" Or, a little more sneaky opt-out, "iTunes now brings the power of the iTunes music store to your current library. You can select Edit -> Hide Mini Store to disable." Internet connection warning labels and links to, yes, a privacy policy should be provided on that dialog.

---

Carlos D
===
my music
http://music.altamar.dynalias.org/


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Poor analogy
Authored by: Barney-15 on Jan 12, '06 05:41:16AM

That's just a wrong-headed analogy. I don't use Office as a method to purchase anything. It wasn't designed or marketed as a means to purchase content. If you can find another piece of software that is an interface for buying content, I might find the analogy at least worthy of argument.

Log me as one who doesn't care. If Apple points me to new music that I like, tremendous, because 98.9% of everything I've heard in the last 10 years, I don't like.

---
Jim



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Poor analogy
Authored by: onan on Jan 14, '06 10:56:12PM
That's just a wrong-headed analogy. I don't use Office as a method to purchase anything. It wasn't designed or marketed as a means to purchase content.
You seem to have managed to forget that most users of itunes do not use it as a method to purchase anything, they simply use it to play their existing music and transfer it to their ipods. Many people in fact chose to use itunes, or invest in ipods, well before it was "designed or marketed as a means to purchase content," and yet they've had this spyware version thrust upon them via deceptive patch notes.

Which I would say makes the analogy pretty apt.

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Cory Doctorow is an alarmist self-promoting whore
Authored by: archinla on Jan 11, '06 10:21:41AM

LOL. I was just thinking this myself. BoingBoing seems to have become even more juvenile lately. It's becoming the cult of goatse, amongst other things.
Sorry for the OT post but they really deserve the criticism to counter all the fawning praise they get.



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Cory Doctorow is an alarmist self-promoting whore
Authored by: Mikey-San on Jan 11, '06 10:31:41AM

It's really just Cory that's cluttering it up with DRM this and that every other day. I can't stomach reading the site on a day where Cory's gone on another DRM posting spree.

Were I Mark or Xeni, I'd kick him back to Slashdot where he belongs. BoingBoing is supposed to be wonderful things, and Cory just plugs his books and DRM rants. This is not "wonderful things".



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: mozart11 on Jan 11, '06 09:00:57AM

Amazinf if you ask me. Apple has changed as a company. Wth the success has brought corporate arrogance. ala Micorosoft.

I'm in the music business and listen and play music all day. With iTunes. This is a disgusting thing Apple has done. Apple is usually respectful of it's users, but nowthat it has so many PC users, I guess it figures why not be like the PC companies. Invade and monitor it's users.

This "phone home" should be SO CLEARLY STATED. And it should be a preference setting.

Jobs and Apple getting arrogant again. Is the downfall coming again?



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: Mikey-San on Jan 11, '06 10:20:50AM

How do you think it knows how to suggest other music? Dark magic? Of course it has to ping a database somewhere. See also: Amazon.com.

There is an option to disable it: "Hide MiniStore" under the Edit menu, or click the button in the bottom-right of the window.



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What's being sent
Authored by: avramd on Jan 11, '06 09:03:05AM

Here is what iTunes is sending when I click on "One Week" by BNL:

GET /WebObjects/MZSearch.woa/wa/ministoreMatch?an=Bare%20Naked%20Ladies&gn=Punk&kind=song&pn=%3CUnknown%3E HTTP/1.1

That's it. Strictly speaking, we have no way to prove whether they are tracking this info or not. Logically speaking, if they were going to track info, they'd track a lot more than this.

One thing people seem to forget is that iTunes is free. It's hard to justify complaining about something being free including some advertising, and it would be a little stupid for that advertising to be completely unrelated to what I'm doing.

I don't agree that this counts a "spyware" because it is not watching anything *else* I'm doing. It is only concenred with my use of this product itself.



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What's being sent
Authored by: kirkmc on Jan 11, '06 09:26:57AM

Looking at tcpdump output, there is clearly a cookie being sent (there is text saying "cookie" that is sent after the music info). So, no, it's not as simple as you suggest.

---
Read my blog: Kirkville -- http://www.mcelhearn.com
Musings, Opinion and Miscellanea, on Macs, iPods and more



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What's being sent
Authored by: kirkmc on Jan 11, '06 09:33:45AM

Oh, and this:

"One thing people seem to forget is that iTunes is free. It's hard to justify complaining about something being free including some advertising,"

Are you serious? iTunes is free? Well, its cost certainly enters into the cost of any Mac or iPod I buy, and it is sold as part of iLife. What about iPhoto? Hey, that comes with a new Mac, so why not some ads in there too?

---
Read my blog: Kirkville -- http://www.mcelhearn.com
Musings, Opinion and Miscellanea, on Macs, iPods and more



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What's being sent
Authored by: mozart11 on Jan 11, '06 10:19:30AM

Just because something is free, then it's right to monitor the user use of the thr product. WITHOUT telliing the user. So you don't mind how Sony his how it's DRM music CD's installed and modified the OS or computers.

You use a companies software, so you tacitly or unknowingly give the company the right to monitor your computer and your use of it?

Not me. And by the way it's not that the software does this, it's that Apple or Sony or whomever install it as a sneek without informing me.

It's arrogant and spying. And use to be above Apple Computer. Not anymore. Steves Jobs self-righteousness is beyond the pale.



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Sony's DRM fiasco is NOT comparable
Authored by: shavenyak on Jan 11, '06 11:27:07AM

Sony's CDs weren't free, and they affected the entire computer. iTunes is free, and the ministore, which can be easily turned off, only affects iTunes itself and reports only on activities occuring within iTunes.

If Sony gave their CDs away free, and their software only told Sony when the CD itself was being played, and there was an easy way to turn off the communication, that comparison might be valid. Even then, the Sony CDs didn't have the (arguable) value of providing useful recommendations to the listener like iTunes.



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What's being sent
Authored by: jmontana on Jan 11, '06 12:20:26PM

Since when has Bare Naked Ladies been punk?



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What's being sent.. is sent in plaintext
Authored by: onan on Jan 14, '06 11:01:56PM
I don't agree that this counts a "spyware" because it is not watching anything *else* I'm doing.
That's not related to most definitions of spyware, I would say for good reason. It's still sending your information to a remote entity without your knowledge or consent. The fact that that information is then used to fuel spam aimed at you is also not part of the definition of spyware, but certainly consistent with most common types of it.

It's also important to note that the string that was so readily visible to you is also visible to anyone with access to your network, or any part of the internet logically between you and Apple. I would imagine that the RIAA would find it worthwhile to pay off ISPs for access to these records, in order to search for any activity that they would deem suspicious. Apple's indiscretion has made it possible for your ISP (or your ISP's ISP, or Apple's ISP) to choose to accept money in exchange for divulging information about you that Apple wrongly exposed.

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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: Rev. Al on Jan 11, '06 09:27:35AM

I'm not a fan of paying for products that arguably don't exist, so I turn off the iTunes Store in Parental Controls as soon as I can. It's worth noting that this also disables the Mini Store.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: imageworx on Jan 11, '06 10:59:38AM

Yep. But I wondered about the TCP...can I just use my Lil Snitch and shut down the mini?

---
To BeOS or Not to BeOS



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: erogers on Jan 11, '06 10:58:10AM

Wow, calling this "spyware" is what's really "over the line." What a silly over-reaction.

I don't see at all how this Ministore this is deceptive or spying. It's very obvious that they are transmitting your current song - how else would they be able to show the recommendation? Doesn't seem like they are hiding it at all.

Perhaps Apple should offer a dialogue the first time the app starts, to tell people about the new feature and offer them the choice to turn it on or off. Maybe that would satisfy the foil hat crowd.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: captain caveman on Jan 11, '06 11:56:10AM

Agreed.

This is from the iTunes web page:

"MiniStore Discover new music as you enjoy your collection or import new CDs with MiniStore — right from your iTunes library."

That states pretty well that it is looking at what I'm doing on my machine to help me discover new music... which would be "not" on my machine.

They didn't actually say exactly what information they are basing this on, but they are telling us what they are doing.

There's also a link to their privacy policy right under the download pane as well.

I don't think they need to hire dancing bears to announce this change... Having it listed in the main blurb right next to the download in regular sized text seems good enough to me

As for the comparison with doing similar in Excel... iTunes already interacts with the Music Store in a well understood manner for good reason. When iTunes got the Music Store it was well publicized that iTunes would be talking to Apple's servers.

This is an extension of that, that is listed on their download page, so I don't see a big deal.

Excel doesn't currently interact with an Excel template store, and if it ever does, I doubt that feature will be as visible as this one has been (ie, Mentioned as one of the main features on the download page.)

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Why Apple went over the line
Authored by: bakalite on Jan 11, '06 01:23:49PM

1) Decent apps will TELL you when they are sending some info somewhere, and allow you to opt out before it is being sent. At minimum, Apple should have coded in a little pop up window that alerts you about this and allows you to opt out. The default would of course be to opt in. They could have made this part of the agreement if they wanted to do so.

2) Amazon etc. are all in a different category. When you go to the Amazon site you are interacting with another computer and doing searches on that computer. Clearly, you are giving the information to a third party at that point. iTunes is a program running on your computer dealing with your music. Sending info somewhere else is not obvious, but rather devious.

3) Clearly iTunes has the capability to send information over the internet. This is how it gets song data when you rip a CD, so this capability has always been part of it. However, if you use your browser to look at a text file, you don't expect that information to go out over the wires. In the same way, when you use iTunes to listen to music, you don't expect that info to go out over the wires.

4) Would you mind if the new iSight camera laptops send random snapshots to Apple? It clearly already has that capability, since it's used for video conferencing.

Apple should do the right thing here, apologize, give people the option to opt out, and move on. Otherwise this could turn into some really bad publicity for them.

Paul.



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Why Apple went over the line
Authored by: cougar718 on Jan 11, '06 01:46:15PM
1) Decent apps will TELL you when they are sending some info somewhere, and allow you to opt out before it is being sent. At minimum, Apple should have coded in a little pop up window that alerts you about this and allows you to opt out. The default would of course be to opt in. They could have made this part of the agreement if they wanted to do so.
By disabling the Mini-Store (Shift-Command M), you are disabling it. What purpose does the Mini-Store serve if it does not offer the convenience it does? None, so obviously the user should realize what it's doing.
2) Amazon etc. are all in a different category. When you go to the Amazon site you are interacting with another computer and doing searches on that computer. Clearly, you are giving the information to a third party at that point. iTunes is a program running on your computer dealing with your music. Sending info somewhere else is not obvious, but rather devious.
When you point your web browser to Amazon, you are in fact, like you said, interacting with another computer and doing searches on that computer. We agree there. But with iTunes, iTunes is interacting with another computer as well, the iTunes Music Store. So your music will always be linked some how to iTunes music store. Why wouldn't it be? That's the convenience ITMS offers.
3) Clearly iTunes has the capability to send information over the internet. This is how it gets song data when you rip a CD, so this capability has always been part of it. However, if you use your browser to look at a text file, you don't expect that information to go out over the wires. In the same way, when you use iTunes to listen to music, you don't expect that info to go out over the wires.
Why shouldn't iTunes do this? If it will only strengthen Apple's ITMS then I don't see what the problem is. Perhaps Apple is using this to survey what Music they should get rid of and what music they should start offering. But this is not like personal data that iTunes Music Store would not happen. This is song information that iTunes Music Store already has. Take any popular artist, when you highlight a song by that artist, the mini-store shows albums offered by the ITMS for that artist. So again, what's the problem?
4) Would you mind if the new iSight camera laptops send random snapshots to Apple? It clearly already has that capability, since it's used for video conferencing.
This is completely different and a very bad analogy. The snapshots in your analogy would contain COMPLETELY unique data that can only be found on your machine, no one else s and therefore would qualify under personal data. Song information is already on the internet.

---
Rick alias cougar

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Why Apple went over the line
Authored by: bakalite on Jan 11, '06 04:57:43PM

You guys are missing a couple of points. The most important is that this is a forum for tech savvy people. Joe Blow user isn't going to know that the mini store is sending anything, so Apple needs to make it clear. We are not talking about a very complicated App here. The Mac prides itself on being easy to use, and almost everyone using a Mac is using iTunes. This means that a lot of people who have NO CLUE are having their data harvested by Apple. I think this is totally uncool, and Apple should be proactive in dealing with it, for it's own sake.

Rob, I know that you said that someone at Apple told you that the Data was not being collected, but that really doesn't mean anything. All it really means, is that RIGHT NOW no data is being collected. They could start anytime they feel like it.

I stand by my point. Decent apps tell you when they are transmitting data you didn't specifically send, and Apple should apologize, and let people opt out if they want to.

And before anyone tells me to "just turn off the mini store", please read my post again. It isn't a question of ME turning it off. It's a question of your Grandma even being aware that her computer is sending data she didn't specifically authorize to be sent. It's a matter of principle, and Apple should step up to the plate.



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Why Apple went over the line
Authored by: captain caveman on Jan 11, '06 02:06:21PM

>Decent apps will TELL you when they are sending some info somewhere, and allow you to opt out before it is being sent.

Did iTunes tell you it would connect to the internet before connecting to the music store the first time? I don't remember it doing so, or causing any stir.

When you go to the http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/ to download iTunes, it says, with a Red "New" sticker next to it, "MiniStore - Discover new music as you enjoy your collection"... how can you discover new music without sending anything out?
Don't want to discover? Close the mini store.
Wait a sec? Mini store? wonder if that's related to the Music store at all?

>iTunes is a program running on your computer dealing with your music. Sending info somewhere else is not obvious, but rather devious.

Unless you are interacting with the Radio playlist.
Unless you are interacting with the iTunes music store. We've had those little grey arrows next to our local tracks for awhile now... we've been led incrementally to this step.

It's not like Excel suddenly decided to start using the internet for somethings... general understanding right now is that Excel doesn't have any reason to connect to the internet as far as I know. iTunes has been internet connected for a long time.

Or Sony's rootkit which hasn't brought us slowly into internet connectivity... just blam, you're send data.

>Clearly iTunes has the capability to send information over the internet. This is how it gets song data when you rip a CD, so this capability has always been part of it. However, if you use your browser to look at a text file, you don't expect that information to go out over the wires. In the same way, when you use iTunes to listen to music, you don't expect that info to go out over the wires.

Agreed, but it did tell you something would be happening. In clear text next to the download they effectively say "You have stuff on your machine, the MiniStore will look for other stuff for you based on what you are doing".

>Would you mind if the new iSight camera laptops send random snapshots to Apple?

No, but that's comparing oranges to plums. This would be more like Apple adding profile stuff to iChat suggesting other people you might like to talk to based on some interests you setup somewhere.


>Apple should do the right thing here, apologize, give people the option to opt out, and move on. Otherwise this could turn into some really bad publicity for them.

Turn off the MiniStore... you're done.
Maybe they should add a link to the MiniStore word in the documentation that spells out more clearly in a technical sense what is being sent.



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Why Apple went over the line
Authored by: cougar718 on Jan 11, '06 02:24:31PM

Amen!

---
Rick alias cougar



[ Reply to This | # ]
Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: cougar718 on Jan 11, '06 01:27:14PM
You know,

I think this is being blown way out of proportion. I don't see how this is a breach of privacy. iTunes is simply doing an automatic search for the artist of the song you have highlighted in the iTunes library or playlist. The transmission only takes place when you highlight a song of an album or playlist otherwise iTunes mini-store takes you to the New releases. You don't even need to play the song for this transmission to take place. And I might be wrong but I think anyone can browse the music store. You just need an account to buy something from it.

Now, iTunes is not doing what Amazon does and other stores, where they recommend products based on what you have looked at during prior visits to their sites, etc.

Even if Apple was gathering statistics it would be beneficial to those who don't buy music from the iTunes music store by letting Apple know what is popular but is not being carried by the store.

Until Apple starts recommending music to me that they think I would like, like *ahem* Amazon, I welcome this behavior.

---
Rick alias cougar

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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: webzone on Jan 11, '06 01:56:31PM

Whoo there are so much overreaction here that I can't believe that such paranoïa exists.

Come on, calling this spyware is really an over-exaggeration (I know this is not a word). A real spyware would have used encrypted requests to be undetectable and would not be that easy to disable. It doesn't even use any information. This is a *FEATURE*. Don't like it? Fine!, disable it. It ends right there.

Seriously, do you think it is new in media players? Windows Media Player on Windows by default contacts a CD info server each time you import music. Any music with DRM can send info to another server. And if you ever asked to get more info about your music, you sent a lot more to Microsoft. This is there since at least versions 8/9.

This new feature in iTunes is nothing dangerous. It is not like if iTunes checked for filesharing software. They don't check all your passwords, they don't spy on you, they don't check where your music comes from, they just offer you to send a song name to Apple.

I saw somebody comparing this to spying you with an iSight. Please let's not get overparanoid about this. When I see such hints and comments, I have to wonder why I decided to consult this site at all.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: Tulse on Jan 11, '06 02:05:59PM
Is the information the Mini Store collects any more intrusive than that collected by Software Update? That is also a system that looks at your local machine, sends local data back to Apple, and then modifies its behaviour based on that local data. In terms of privacy, Software Update has the potential to be much more intrusive, as it examines a much broader selection of information on your hard drive. If you're worried about the Mini Store, you should be far more worried about Software Update.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: cougar718 on Jan 11, '06 02:26:30PM

Amen!

---
Rick alias cougar



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: robg on Jan 11, '06 03:49:23PM

Software Update: I run the app, fully expecting it to connect to the net, look at what software I need, and report back.

iTunes: I do *not* expect it to connect to the net, report what I'm playing, and report back with recommendations on other songs to listen to. It's an application. It runs on my Mac. I'm playing my locally-stored music. If I want to go to the store, I'll go to the store. Please don't force the store into my hands.

And if I just *knew* what they were sending, and what they were doing with it, I'd be much happier. The fact that they do have a cookie in the transmission, and that there's a third-party marketing company involved in the transaction, tells me that I really really want to know what's going on.

That's all I'm asking for -- an explanation...

-rob.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: macevangelist on Jan 11, '06 10:08:08PM

Software Update is on and set to check weekly by default, you don't have to do anything in order for it to send information. When you install Mac OS X 10.4.x from scratch your information is automatically send after filing in your contact info. In both cases there is not a single word that information is ABOUT to be sent let alone a dialog that allows you to cancel it if you wanted to.

I bet that guy over at BoingBoing is rotflhao for causing such a stir. And even if a third-party is involved that actually collects that data clearly no apple store id is sent and I live in a country where ISP don't give out personal information related to IP addresses, at least not without a warrant and a nice letter to me in advance telling me that they're about to give my personal information to the authorities.

Some of you guys act like all you do is listen to Greatest Moans in Porn History Volume I through VIII. If you're ashamed then change your music taste.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: flmiller on Jan 11, '06 02:26:43PM

Come on people. Whether or not you mind Apple knowing/analyzing/remembering music that you play on 'YOUR OWN COMPUTER', it IS an invasion of privacy and should be disclosed up front, along with the mechanism to disable reporting. Rob, I agree with you 100 per cent. If I am browsing a web site, I expect that they will collect data on my browsing. If I use Gmail (I don't), I am on their site and I expect that they collect data my usage. However, I DON'T expect anyone to collect data from my use of MY software on MY machine without explicitly telling me they intend to do so. My $0.02.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: FenrisUlf on Jan 11, '06 02:57:46PM
From the iTunes website:

Discover New Music New in iTunes 6. Looking for some new tunes? Tap into the 2-million-song treasure chest of the iTunes Music Store through the new MiniStore. While you're browsing your own library or importing a new CD, MiniStore appears at the bottom of the iTunes window and shows you other albums from your favorite artists and artists like them. You can even see reviews of these albums plus what other listeners who like this artist purchased — so you'll never be at a loss for new music to discover. When you're ready to go back to full-screen mode, click an icon and MiniStore tucks away, ready to pop up again later when you want to explore some more.


Guess they did tell you. And it's not exactly hidden like Sony or MS's mining have been.

---
Who are you that walk across the graves of giants at this late hour?

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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: kirkmc on Jan 12, '06 12:44:29AM

Did you, as a Mac user, see that in Software Update before downloading the latest version of iTunes? Or do you download iTunes update from the web site every time?

I upgraded through Software Update, and there was no information as to what new features were in iTunes.

---
Read my blog: Kirkville -- http://www.mcelhearn.com
Musings, Opinion and Miscellanea, on Macs, iPods and more



[ Reply to This | # ]
Apple's botched MiniStore intro
Authored by: sjk on Jan 12, '06 06:52:57PM
Yep, Software Update gave no indication of the MiniStore being added and enabled.

Of course I quickly disabled it but was disturbed knowing how trivial it would have been for Apple to add a simple dialog of explanation with a "Don't show this message again" checkbox, just like they do with several other iTunes features that are activated for the first time, to stop (or at least minimize) all this negative fallout over it from happening.

Plain and simple, that's my opinion of how Apple botched introducing the MiniStore to iTunes users.

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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: webzone on Jan 11, '06 02:58:16PM

There are some terms of use displayed before you install iTunes. Unless you forgot to read them



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: Mikey-San on Jan 11, '06 03:34:41PM

Wait a second.

You mean that in order to recommend other music to me, they have to know what I listen to?

This is a travesty. An absolute travesty. Heads on pikes, man.

Seriously, dude, calm down. Your rights haven't been violated here (you DID agree to the EULA, after all), and you can turn it off with a single button. Don't like the MiniStore? Don't use it.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's reporting of listening habits
Authored by: onan on Jan 14, '06 11:09:52PM
... you can turn it off with a single button.
A single unlabelled button that was carefully hidden amongst a field of other predecessor buttons. Forgive me if that seems like a pretty underhanded excuse for an after the fact opt-out.

Sending any of my personal information outside my computer is a drastic step, one that requires very explicit notice and consent before it takes place. Not just a mildly concealed way to stop it once it's already happened.

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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: robg on Jan 11, '06 04:21:11PM

Please see my major update note in the body of the hint. This is now, to me, a non-issue based on the response from Apple.

-rob.



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a PR issue
Authored by: hayne on Jan 11, '06 06:05:47PM

I don't think it is a non-issue.
I agree that the reaction to it was overblown.

But I think Apple should have:
a) had a dialog asking me if I wanted this MiniStore to appear in my music player app (otherwise it shouldn't be turned on by default)
b) informed me that the MiniStore would send song info to Apple in order to show me related music

I.e. I think it was a big PR mistake not to do something like the above.
Many people are concerned about privacy and hence the fuss since Apple is (correctly) held to a higher standard.
I'm sure that Apple would prefer that its MacWorld news coverage not be diluted by headlines about possible spyware.



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a PR issue
Authored by: FenrisUlf on Jan 11, '06 08:11:04PM

It's only a PR mistake based on the reaction we're seeing on this and other sites. The reaction to it was completely overblown, and if it had been a metered, balanced inquiry into what the mini store did (or did not do) this would not have gotten out of hand in the first place.

You send more data to Apple using Software Update than the mini store sends to iTMS. Privacy concerns are not at the root of this. It has been a witch-hunt based on what Sony has done (and Microsoft in the distant past with WMP). Everyone was ready to burn Apple at the stake for this, and now that the information is clear there are people who still insist on trying to make it an issue.

It seems to me that people who are "concerned" about their privacy would do a little more to check on new things installed on their computer. Their concern only happened after someone wrongly insisted this whole thing was just spyware. Why implicitly trust any corporation simply because in the past, you have felt "safe"? That doesn't sound like someone who truly takes their privacy seriously.



---
Who are you that walk across the graves of giants at this late hour?



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a PR issue
Authored by: sjk on Jan 12, '06 06:59:53PM

I agree, like I just redundantly wrote in my post right before reading yours... d'oh!



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PS
Authored by: sjk on Jan 12, '06 07:01:57PM

"yours", referring to Cameron's post.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: Imaria on Jan 11, '06 04:50:20PM

Considering rumours like this happen every time a new Apple product comes out, I find it really disappointing that this one came from here. Normally MacOSXHints has the sense to double-check it's facts before making bold statements like this; a call to arms like this just seems like an unsightly blemish on the professionalism that we usually find here.

This isn't just a "non-issue", this borders on defamation. The implication that Apple was "spying" was flat-out wrong. To be honest, I'm surprised this article is even still up. If you want to still highlight the real abilities of the MiniStore, I would take this down and put up a correct article rather than waiting for Google to spread "iTunes Spyware" all over the Internet.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: Blah on Jan 13, '06 01:30:00PM
This isn't just a "non-issue", this borders on defamation. The implication that Apple was "spying" was flat-out wrong. To be honest, I'm surprised this article is even still up. If you want to still highlight the real abilities of the MiniStore, I would take this down and put up a correct article rather than waiting for Google to spread "iTunes Spyware" all over the Internet.
Talk about an reverse over-reaction. Defamation? Don't be an a*s.

Regardless of whether you care or not, this is spying. It's an option that is enabled by default and sends private (to many, or most people) information back to a remote server. That's spying. End of story.

Some people, like yourself, don't care. Fine. Let the option be disabled by default, with an explanation the first time you enable it. Personally, I won't even be upgrading to 6.0.2 until everything is well understood. I find "features" like this filthy, and I buy plenty of Apple hardware....

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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: osxpounder on Jan 13, '06 02:10:59PM

Yup, it's spying, because they didn't ask for the info, or even sneak a phrase into the User Agreement saying you now agree to share the info.

Imagine if a store at the mall used the parking lot security cameras to see what you're carrying -- to get an idea what you bought from other stores -- made a list based on those observations, and sent you coupons and offers related to the stuff they saw you buy.

That's fair. The parking lot is their space, and you're carrying your shopping bags across it.

Imagine instead that the store's employee goes through your purse or wallet when you're not looking, finds receipts for things you bought, and sends you coupons, etc.

That's not fair, because it's your purse or wallet. Your own space. Like the space on your computer.

---
--
osxpounder



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: Blah on Jan 18, '06 10:45:50AM
Let the option be disabled by default, with an explanation the first time you enable it.
Wow, looks like I called the exact solution, huh? :-)

Given their solution, and how quickly it was employed, I'll give them the benefit of doubt and suggest that it was an "honest mistake", and move on.

But it does seem odd that this can be done "remotely", without any update to the code itself. At least not unless you had to be logged in or something.

Anyone else think it's odd that a feature can be "turned off" by Apple remotely? Doesn't this imply that they can "turn ON" another feature remotely at will???? Anyone have any insights into this?



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update to Mini Store to make it opt-in
Authored by: hayne on Jan 18, '06 10:49:55PM
But it does seem odd that this can be done "remotely", without any update to the code itself.
It's not so surprising once you realize that the Music Store (and Mini Store) functionality in iTunes is just a specialized web browser. The content (what you see inside the borders of the content area) is HTML downloaded from the Apple servers. So all that was needed to change it was to change the server-side code. The hooks to hide & show the Mini Store were already in iTunes.

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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: KB3HFP on Jan 11, '06 06:11:01PM

*gasp*

Oh no, now Apple will know that I'm a closet Journey fan! I'm switching to Windows Media Player!

(Oh, wait, I bought those tracks on the iTMS in the first place. Dang, I guess they've known that all along - maybe that's why most of my iTMS recommendations are for Boston and Foreigner. :D)



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: dhayton on Jan 11, '06 06:38:14PM
I appreciate that Apple could have done a bit more to remind us that the ministore was going to communicate with the mothership, but they didn't exactly keep it a secret. In fact, it seems a feature they drew some attention to on the iTunes page where they provide a link that explains the function of the ministore (sure, it doesn't say the song/artist information will be transmitted, but how else would the ministore divine what you are listening to?).

I knew about it long before I downloaded the iTunes. I don't see this as either some nefarious plot on the part of Apple to collect information nor a serious PR faux pas. Rather, it seems to me that many people didn't bother to read the website.

Just my 2¢.

Best, darin

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Software Update is the source
Authored by: hayne on Jan 11, '06 07:56:19PM
it seems to me that many people didn't bother to read the website
Indeed - most people just use Software Update to keep their Macs up to date with the latest software. Why would a contented user of iTunes bother reading the Apple web site? There's a new version of iTunes? Okay, better install it. Boom - as S.J. says.

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Software Update is the source
Authored by: sjk on Jan 12, '06 07:21:41PM
Even if you read info on the web site it's still possible to miss new features regardless of how well they're displayed. In addition to that info, displaying an optionally one-time dialog at the time certain features are activated is arguably one of the better ways of attempting to get a user's attention since it's immediately relevant in that context.

I've appreciated those dialogs when first using other iTunes features (e.g. Party Shuffle playlist) and don't understand why it was omitted for one as controversial as this would obviously (IMO) be.

Also remember this was a dot-dot update so there was less user expectation of anything new, especially when the Software Update dialog only mentioned stability/bug fixes. I did read info on Apple's site for major software updates to iLife and iWork but happened to skip iTunes this time.

Anyway, I agree with everyone who thinks there was insufficient direct communication (e.g. a feature-activation dialog) about the MiniStore from Apple to users.

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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: ms_t_rie on Jan 11, '06 08:22:28PM

The MiniStore thing really isn't as big a deal as iTunes 6.0.2 messing up Disk Utility. I have to wonder what is in there as the function would seem to be quite different! I'd rather have harmless info sent than have it messing up Disk Utility!

(copied from macosxhints, I'd link but there this info is buried in a bunch of others)

Unable to run Disk Utility after update Several users have reported that they are unable to properly run Disk Utility after applying the iTunes 6.0.2 update, receiving the error message:

"Disk Utility lost connection with Disk Management Tool and cannot continue."

part-way through the repair process.

The problem generally affects users running Mac OS X 10.3.9.

MacFixIt reader Philip Wheelock writes:

"I installed iTunes 6.0.2 via Software Update; restarted and found I could not repair disk permissions with Disk Utility, even starting from system installer disk. Disk Utility stalls approximately 1/3 of the way through and displays this error message: 'Disk Utility has lost its connection with the Disk Management Tool and cannot continue. Please quit and relaunch Disk Utility.' Never seen this before."

There are two potential workarounds for this issue:

* Delete the "Chess" application and its associated .plist file (com.apple.Chess.plist, located in ~/Library/Preferences -- the Library folder inside your user directory) and attempt to re-run Disk Utility
* Delete iTunes 6.0.2 and its associated .plist file (com.apple.iTunes.plist, locaed in ~/Library/Preferences). Re-install iTunes 6.0.1 (from a backup, if available) and attempt to run Disk Utility again.

If you are still having issues, note that you can still startup from a different volume (or the Mac OS X installation disc) and repair permissions successfully on your normal startup volume.

Interestingly, iTunes 6.0.2 is no longer available from Apple's download page, indicating that the company may have pulled the software. However, the update is still available from the standard iTunes download page and through Software Update.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: jdebar on Jan 25, '06 10:47:20AM

I've run into that exact problem and deleting CHESS doesn't do the trick. Also the iTunes on the Apple site is 6.0.2......same old problem.

Any other ideas on what to do or what is happening when the Disk Utility loses communication with disk management? Thanks.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: barefootguru on Jan 11, '06 11:54:10PM

This is partially covered in KB article 303066—Apple covers what's being sent and how to disable it.

http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=303066



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Non Issue or Overblown?
Authored by: bakalite on Jan 12, '06 12:10:40AM

I think the article over at BoinBoing pretty much nailed it.

http://www.boingboing.net/2006/01/11/steve_jobs_apple_dis.html

I still think Apple screwed up on this one. I don't think they are sinister, they simply didn't think ahead far enough. Letting you opt out of the mini store while telling you what it does is not that much to code.

Also, as I've said before, once they are gathering the info nothing prevents them from storing it in the future. Not that they would, not with Jobs saying they won't, but they could.

In general, Apple needs to be a bit more proactive when it comes to problems. It's good for the consumer, and it's good for business in the long run.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: adrianm on Jan 12, '06 12:12:48AM

Well, I'm glad this outbreak of paranoia has passed. Really, this is no different from using your web browser to view pages where data is collected (banner ads and cookies and all that - something macosxhints.com thrives on). iTunes is not just an app, it's a thick web client.



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security hole
Authored by: Arturia on Jan 12, '06 05:55:10AM

Lets just hope that this "feature" won't become a security hole and be hijacked by some hackers to send more private data



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: sjonke on Jan 12, '06 08:50:30AM

Apple isn't collecting data. Now. Where do they say that they won't in the future?

The mini store should be removed from iTunes, or at the very least it should be disabled by default and pop up a warning explaining exactly how it works if you do try to enable it.

---
--- What?



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: Gerk on Jan 12, '06 12:17:23PM

On the logistcal/ethical front I still feel that Apple went about this in the wrong manner completely. They didn't give you the option to opt-out, they turn it on by default. While it may not be spyware (at apple's word ... which I still think is very fishy considering that the data is going to a 3rd party for collection and analysis !!)

It is adware without a doubt and sadly one of the first wide spread examples of it I've seen for OSX, AND it came directly from Apple.

Equate it to a different application... it's like Apple introducing a new feature in Safari that suggests purchases for you to make at say ... the Amazon web store, determined from the content of the page you are viewing ... but only doing it when you click a link to get to the page. If you load a bookmark or type an address it won't.

If they did this people would be up in arms about it (and rightly so). This is NO different, regardless of how they impliment this it is adware. It's nice that you have the option to turn it off, it's NOT nice that you don't have the opt-in/opt-out option before it happens.



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where to draw the line?
Authored by: bogdescu on Jan 12, '06 04:59:06PM

I agree that apple crossed the line.
"My" line is the one that separates privately using my local resources and sending/receiving data over the Internet. This divide, even if it runs 'inside' an application, should be marked clearly, so that even someone who has no idea what tcpdump is understands it and makes his/her choice.
PS and not so OT.
Thank Dog for "paranoia" and the "paranoids", we'd be all living in a giant Soviet Bushlandia without them.



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Disable iTunes 6.0.2's MiniStore
Authored by: chyna4xena on Jan 17, '06 08:41:42PM
I don't have a problem with the mini-store, or the way it was introduced, but not for any of the reasons stated previously. I feel 100% assured that the RIAA will not be interested in the information transmitted, nor would Apple want to store this information, because it is useless.

The RIAA isn't going to be interested unless they can confirm that you're playing unlicensed music - they might see that you've clicked on a commercial song track that you haven't bought online, but you might have ripped that track off a legally-purchased CD; or hey, you could have renamed any old mp3 and given it the title of a commercial song. Sending artist/title info cannot implicate you in any way - it is not even close to being proof that you're playing unlicensed music.

Apple (or the third-party) won't be interested in using this information to assemble 'profiles' of people's listening habits, because it cannot do that - it doesn't transmit info on what is playing, only those tracks that get clicked on. You're not going to conveniently click on a representative sample of what you're listening to, so the only profile that could be assembled is 'tracks you've clicked on, that could have been re-named in any case' - and that is hardly information that anyone would pay for !

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