Friday, June 01, 2007

Fingerprints on the Apple

It was Franco who first alerted us to the discovery of private data encoded into the supposedly DRM-free files being sold by Apple:

We now know where the extra iTunes charges for “Fairplay” tracks is going: all downloaded songs come free with personalised information like your name, email address and other account information. They must have run out of space otherwise they could have squeezed in some bank details and mother’s maiden name.

Although it turns out to be even worse than that: all iTunes sales have this data encoded into them, but since the standard version is locked to a limited number of machines and players, it's caused less concern.

Ars Technica ponders why they'd bother with this ugly, embarrassing encumbrance - as it points out, the people who'd shell out a dollar for a tune aren't going to be the sort fishing in file-sharing networks anyway. It speculates there's a chance that the information might be collated for a fascinating study rather than copyright whoop-ass, but Apple are keeping quiet about what the hell they're up to for now. It all looks a little tawdry.


Alan said...

pedants corner, re "supposedly DRM free files"

the data, whatever it turns out to be, in no way impinges on the DRM-free nature of the files.

simon h b said...

Up to a point, Alan - it depends what you mean by Digital Rights Management. While the information encoded in the files may not prevent the files being moved from device to device physically, the presence of identifying marks does mean that the file has the ability to be traced back to its source - if you take the view that watermarking music files to identify the source is a psychological DRM technology, and I do - then the files are DRMed.

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