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1/17/2006
12:20 PM
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iTunes' Privacy Problem

iTunes screenshotApple Computer's release last week of the iTunes 6.02 update quickly earned the nickname "SpyTunes" among bloggers.

The upgrade includes a feature called the MiniStore that offers song recommendations in exchange for a bit of cash--and privacy.

The MiniStore bases its song suggestions on music played by the user. Because those songs are stored on the user's computer, iTunes has to transmit that information to other computers, including those run by marketing firm Omniture, to generate a related suggested purchase. Apple, which declined to comment, does this without explicit user notice or consent, so it's arguably a privacy violation--and inarguably a bad idea. Omniture expects its customers (like Apple) to disclose such things to their customers, VP Gail Ennis says.

Companies are always looking for ways to get closer to customers, and personalized search will be an increasingly important route. But as Apple is finding out, not disclosing all the details can spell trouble.

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