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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 11:37 GMT
Snooping fears plague new iTunes
Apple boss Steve Jobs
Apple's Steve Jobs has come under fire over the iTunes changes
Apple has been criticised over a new version of its iTunes program that can keep track of a user's listening habits.

The updated software includes a feature that recommends tracks similar to the music being played via iTunes.

Users said Apple had to be more open about data being collected because the recommendations use unique identifiers for a computer and iTunes account.

Apple said it did not keep any data gathered after it made recommendations.

Track back

The row arose following the update to the iTunes software released by Apple on 10 January.

The new version includes a MiniStore feature that recommends tracks to buy similar to those a user is listening to.

MiniStore looks for similar tracks when a user clicks on a tune in a playlist. It even makes recommendations about songs that were not bought via the hugely popular online music store.

iTunes sends data about the song selected in your library to the iTunes Music Store to provide relevant recommendations. When the MiniStore is hidden, this data is not sent to the iTunes Music Store
Apple support site
Soon after the update was released, blogger Marc Garrett wrote a journal entry about MiniStore and the data it passes back to Apple.

Further work by other bloggers such as Kirk McElhearn found that the data being sent back to Apple to make the recommendations included artist, title, genre as well as unique identifiers for a computer and iTunes account.

Privacy advocates complained that Apple had not done enough to warn people about the information that was being collected, nor what was being done with the collected data.

By contrast Apple does mention in the licence agreement for iTunes that it contacts the Gracenote music database to work out which album is being played via the program.

"Apple should be clear about its information gathering practices," wrote Mr Garrett on his blog.

Data loss

Apple said in response to a request for comment: "Apple does not save or store any information used to create recommendations for the MiniStore".

On its support website, the company has posted and updated information about how to turn the MiniStore feature off. Information on the page has been updated since the row about iTunes blew up.

"iTunes sends data about the song selected in your library to the iTunes Music Store to provide relevant recommendations," says the entry on its support website.

"When the MiniStore is hidden, this data is not sent to the iTunes Music Store."

Digital detective work by bloggers has confirmed that no data is passed to Apple when MiniStore is turned off.

Macworld magazine reported on its website that an Apple official had told it that nothing was done with the information collected.

The magazine called on Apple to be upfront about the information it was collecting and what was being done with it.

In the past both Microsoft and RealNetworks have got into trouble for not disclosing that they were identifying users individually and monitoring what they were watching.

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