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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.

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


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