January 18, 2006 | By Rebecca Jeschke

Update: Apple Makes iTunes Tweaks After Internet Uproar

Last week, we told you about a troublesome "phone home" feature in iTunes MiniStore -- one of the new "improvements" in iTunes announced at MacWorld. The MiniStore looks at what you listen to and suggests additional songs and artists you might like, but they were some big problems with it: it arrived in the latest iTunes update turned on by default; it automatically transmits information back to Apple; and what Apple did with that information was unknown. Apple also did not disclose the steps they were taking to prevent disclosure or leakage of the information to third parties. Some users found that iTunes also sent along your Apple ID -- personal information that is apparently linked to other identifying information that Apple has on file.

After much public criticism, however, Apple has taken action. It is now offering a new update to the program that is a bit more privacy-friendly. A dialog box now asks you for your permission to activate the feature, and says that Apple does not keep any information related to your music library. This is certainly a step in the right direction -- it solves the default and some of the disclosure problems -- but Apple can and should do more. For example, why do they need that Apple ID, anyway? And if they aren't keeping the information, then what are they doing with it? The key to good communication and consumer protection is honesty and transparency; while Apple may have fixed some of its immediate problems, it still hasn't met its customers eye-to-eye on its data collection practices. Until then, every new "update" from Apple poses the same potential for privacy invasion.


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