updated 03:45 pm EDT, Sat June 2, 2007
DRM-free music privacy
Apple has declined to comment on why it stores users' names and emails in its DRM-free music offered through iTunes. Earlier this week, the company officially launched its higher quality, DRM-free music with the release of iTunes 7.2, which brought a few growing pains. EMI's historic agreement with Apple removes any copyright protection on music, allowing users to playback music on virtually any device if they purchase the the more expensive DRM-free version of the song. However, now privacy advocates are beginning to question Apple's move to include the information with each song. Unlike competing services such as eMusic which offer DRM-free music without any strings attached, several sites reported that Apple embedded personal information such as a user's name and email.
While Apple's has drawn criticism for the watermarking itself, privacy advocates argue that the information should be encrypted to protect individuals.
"There's absolutely no reason that it had to be embedded, unencrypted and in the clear," said Fred von Lohmann, a senior intellectual property attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Wired. "Some of the privacy problems, in light of this, is that anyone who steals an iPod that includes purchased iTunes music will now have the name and e-mail address of its rightful owner."
von Lohmann suggests that Apple encrypt the information to protect privacy without compromising the forensic value and also expected to see tools to automatically "anonymize" music with Apple's CEO name and email.
While many have criticized the watermarking of files, some analysts argue that watermarking is "certainly better than digital rights management, according to CNET News.com.
"Watermarking does not treat the consumer like a criminal," an analyst with Yankee Group Research said. "DRM is also restrictive, telling you how many times you can play a song or which device it can be played on. Watermarking works on the assumption that a consumer is innocent but provides the industry an opportunity to catch someone that breaks the law."