YO! I POD, I TUNE, USERS!!
As noted at TUAW, iTunes 6.0.2 contains a new feature: the MiniStore. It’s neat, at first. Sort of.
But not really.
Each time you play a different song, the MiniStore features information about the artist currently playing, as well as “Listeners Also Bought…” Here’s a full size capture of Apple marketing in action: as you can see, I’m playing Mary J. Blige covering U2’s “One”, and the MiniStore shows other albums from Mary J. Blige and U2.
This means, of course, that every single time I play a song the information is sent back to Apple. You can turn off the MiniStore at the click of a button, but it’s not clear whether turning off the MiniStore is the same as turning off the flow of data (one doubts it). And don’t bother looking for a way to turn this “feature” off in the Preference pane: it’s not there.
In fairness to Apple, I didn’t read the iTunes software license when I updated. So let’s have a look. I’ll be waiting here when you’re done.
Back so soon? Did you read the whole thing? OK, I didn’t either. But the music store receives scant mention:
This software enables access to Apple’s online music store which offers downloads of music for sale. This store is open in the United States and may be open in other select territories. Use of this store requires Internet access and requires you to accept additional terms of service which will be presented to you before you can use the store.
The iTunes software license doesn’t actually provide a link to the Music Store Terms of Service, but I do: read it here.
Here’s what Apple says about my information (emphasis mine):
Your Information. You agree to provide accurate, current, and complete information required to register with the Service and at other points as may be required in the course of using the Service (“Registration Data”). You further agree to maintain and update your Registration Data as required to keep it accurate, current, and complete. Apple may terminate your rights to any or all of the Service if any information you provide is false, inaccurate or incomplete. You agree that Apple may store and use the Registration Data you provide (including credit card and PayPal account information) for use in maintaining your accounts and billing fees to your credit card or PayPal account.
That’s it. Apple doesn’t say that it can transmit or store information about the songs I play back to the iTunes Store. In fact, the Music Store TOS expressly incorporates the Apple Customer Privacy Statement.
The Privacy Statement contains the following language:
We also collect information regarding customer activities on our website, .Mac, the iTunes Music Store, and on related websites. This helps us to determine how best to provide useful information to customers and to understand which parts of our websites and Internet services are of most interest to them.
But this caveat is cited specifically in the context of collecting billing information (such as address, phone number, and credit card).
What’s to be done? Probably not much, other than steal your music from file-sharing services and play it with open source players (presumably the sort of behavior Apple wishes to discourage). Either that or acquiesce as yet another corporation takes, without asking, just a bit more of your privacy.