Does the new iTunes contain spyware? - Macenstein

Does the new iTunes contain spyware?

Posted by Lab Rat

Users of Apple’s iTunes software who downloaded the 6.0.2 update yesterday may have gotten more than the “stability and performance improvements over iTunes 6.0.� they were expecting. An interesting posting over at Boing Boing Is calling the latest iteration of iTunes “spyware�. After upgrading, users will notice a new mini store option in the main iTunes panel that will automatically update a selection of songs for sale in the iTunes music store based on whatever you are listening to in iTunes, whether it was purchased via iTunes originally or not.

This goes far beyond the “Just For Me� section of the iTunes store, which based song recommendations on your previous purchases. This new mini store seems to be constantly sending information to Apple about what’s playing on your Mac. As Boing Boing rightly points out:

“I love iTunes because it’s a clean music player. But no amount of clean UI is worth surrendering my privacy for — I wouldn’t buy a stereo that phoned home to Panasonic and told it what I was listening to; I wouldn’t buy a shower radio that delivered my tuning preferences to Blaupunkt. I certainly am not comfortable with Apple shoulder-surfing me while I listen to digital music, particularly if they’re doing so without my meaningful, informed consent and without disclosing what they intend on doing with that data.â€?

While the mini store can be removed from the main pane via a click on the bottom toolbar, it is unclear as to whether or not this stops the information from being sent to Apple.

Apple’s new “mini store” will suggest songs from its iTunes music store based on the current track you are playing. To minimize the store (but not necessarily stop it from sending song info to Apple) hit the first icon in the bottom left of the interface: the downward arrow in a box.

In our brief tests, it appears that if the mini store is minimized, and you switch song tracks, then reactivate the mini store, the lag time seems to imply that Apple only looks at your selections when the store is maximized (although that delay could simply be the loading of album artwork). Still, conspiracy theorists will likely have a field day with this invasive spying tactic that would be more expected of Microsoft than Apple. Perhaps combined with the ever broadening reach of .Mac into our lives, we may have something to start worrying about. It is almost enough to cause one to wonder just what that 5-year deal with Microsoft actually said…

15 Responses to “Does the new iTunes contain spyware?”
  1. Branedy says:

    It also does not appear to know anything other than the ‘Artist’ if the artist column is blank. There is a ‘No Match’ on the store. Not a big invasion, Still, a bit too much.

  2. You guys says:

    are retarded. This is about as far from spyware as you can get. I guarantee that Joe Consumer, the target audience for iTunes and the iTMS, is going to love this feature. And they are right to do so, because it is useful.

    Spyware is more than software that observes trends in listening habits. Spyware is malicious code that seeks to defraud someone by stealing data that could be used for identity theft, etc. This doesn’t count. Oh, and if you don’t like it, close the MiniStore. A simple check using traffic sniffing tools shows that iTunes doesn’t report to Apple when the MiniStore is closed.

    This site is so worthless. I can’t believe I was actually duped into clicking on this link from MacBytes yet again. MacBytes should no better than to link to the garbage you morons post.

    Oh yeah, and you smell, too.

  3. macnews says:

    With the mini store closed it does not appear iTunes is sending any info to Apple. I think this is the proper way to handle something that could definetly be seen by many non-consipirecy theory people as a good feature. I would like to know more and think Apple should be more up front with how this works. Does it only take the artist info? What else do they do with your info – share it with other vendors? check to see if the music is “legal”? etc.

    It can be a fine line between “spyware” and a “service” which is why any good company needs to be 100% transparent with what it is doing with your information and its “service”.

  4. I don’t think there’s spyware involved, because I use Little Snitch and it checks every in- or outgoing thing on my computer.

    This said, I’m gonna pre-order myself a shiny new MacBook Pro 🙂

    … and thát doesn’t smell!

  5. Wacky says:

    Just turn off the mini store, it’s under the “Edit” menu and “Hide mini store” It’s stupid they have it on by default, and it’s dumb that it’s not in “preferences” to hide it.

  6. Eric says:

    The mini-store isn’t available for PC users (yet). I like the feature myself and I do not think its spyware.

    I’m holding out for a new Macintel desktop – but the MacBookPro looks slick!~

  7. David says:

    itunes simply tells this box what artist is up and the mini store simply pulls that artist up in the box i dont really think it is an intrusion at all. the only reason it is on by defailt is to upsell music from the store compared to buying a cd and to upsell the itunes exclusives that many different artists have put on itunes and nowhere else

  8. Eduo says:

    Probably not as bad if the option was turned off by default and turning it on (or in the EULA) specified your information would be sent.

  9. anon says:

    This is spyware by any reasonable definition. It sends data from your computer to another computer without your knowledge or consent. THAT IS SPYWARE! Malware? No certainly not but its definately spyware. Apple should have come clean with this and had it disabled by default.

  10. Dave says:

    hahahahha jokes on them, they dont cover much industrial and powernoise, or even breakcore, so this regime wont affect me 😀

    granted that i have like 2-5% of music that is actually stuff that’d be found on the itms, considering that I have 2100+ tracks.

    pays to be into an abstract genre of music 😛

  11. Dave says:

    to add to the comment “You Guys” left its true, i checked with little snitch as well

  12. Steven says:

    “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. “

  13. kinless says:

    Duh, people. If the iTMS Mini Store was indeed capturing information, then there would have been a privacy disclaimer about it. Since they’re not, they didn’t have to bother. What a waste of paranoia.

  14. Fred says:

    With little snitch on i’m not getting any requests to block iTunes connecting to the net while the panel is closed. Its not transmitting.

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