iTunes Knows Where You Live (And It’s Going To Hunt You Down)

My post-MWSF 2006 elation didn’t last long. Within a couple of hours of the PowerBook…MacBook Pro…ugh…announcement, I – like many others, both of the Mac faithful and not – was lamenting on Steve’s choice of name. It really does suck. I want to dwell on it, but I sense that to do so would be at the very least pointless and unproductive.

Some have already moved on to discussions new. Over on Slashdot, that perennial favourite of mine, the uptight and the hopeless are busy discussing whether iTunes is malware, spyware or bad just because. The issue centres on the new MiniStore feature that Apple have added to iTunes 6.0.2, released yesterday, and how it knows what albums and artists to show you in this little pane at the bottom of the window.

iTunes Ministore

Cory Doctorow has, as is customary, has weighed in on this with a reactionary piece and (at the moment), no less than seven updates, as he corrects the misinformation disseminated in his original post. Whenever I read Doctorow, I am always left thinking that if he hates his Mac so much, why doesn’t he just dump it and use Linux?

It may be a cultural thing, although I think that’s just a cheap excuse that I am attempting to use to justify my position on the whole issue, but I don’t get this whole paranoia about companies knowing what music I like, what food I often buy or which authors I dig. So, iTunes knows I like Steely Dan. So what? What are they going to do with that information? Perhaps I am simply being naïve, but can someone honestly tell me what nefarious purpose could Apple have in mind – what sinister ulterior motive could Apple possibly have – making use of the knowledge that I like Steely Dan? Please. Tell me. I genuinely want to know.

Because, in fact, as this poster articulates on Slashdot, in some circumstances, you’d call it good customer service. When as soon as I walk into my local the bartender prepares a pint of Guinness for me, I call that good service. I certainly don’t bitch at him and accuse him of violating my sacred privacy.

One could be excused for considering Apple a little naïve in the way they have handled this, given the often oh-so-reactionary nature of the blogosphere with regard to such issues. Perhaps it would have been better to make the MiniStore opt-in by default, or have a little notice pop up to tell people about the MiniStore and allay any privacy concerns. Doctorow would have flown off the handle anyway, and so probably would have Slashdot, but it would have helped.

For my part, I certainly had no trouble turning it off (View…Hide MiniStore, or click the button at the bottom of the iTunes window) – it took me all of 5-10 seconds – but others have complained that it was far too difficult, something which I find a little hard to believe. Still, perhaps Apple considers these reactionaries’ influence to be limited in the face of its army of iPod-brandishing iTunes-loving loyalists.

In any case, my money’s on it becoming an opt-in feature in iTunes 6.0.3/7.0. They will probably also reduce the size too – as it stands, it takes up far too much space on my screen. As always, we shall see.

(Update: Today’s news has it that in fact Apple did have a Knowledge Base article about the MiniStore available the day iTunes 6.0.2 was released. It would have been helpful, however, to have made access to this article a little easier.

In any case, the important thing is the news – as I suspected – that Apple does not in fact do anything with this information – it simply discards it. As I said in this post, I cannot understand what use the knowledge that I like the funky jazz-rock stylings of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker is to Apple. It appears that they agree.)

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