Posted: Jun 3, 2007 7:56 am
Fresh privacy fears have been sparked after it emerged that Apple has embedded personal information into music files bought from its iTunes online music store.
Technology websites examining iTunes products discovered that personal data, including the name and e-mail addresses of purchasers, are embedded into the AAC files that Apple uses to distribute music tracks.
The information is also included in tracks sold under Apple's iTunes Plus system, launched this week, where users pay a premium for music that is free from the controversial digital rights (DRM) software that is designed to safeguard against piracy.
The Electronic Freedom Foundation, the online consumer rights group, added that it had identified a large amount of additional unaccounted-for information in iTunes files. It said it was possible that the data could be used to "watermark" tracks so that the original purchaser could be tracked down were a track to appear on a file-sharing network.
The discovery of the data, of which most iTunes users will have been unaware, underscores the reluctance of music groups to allow music to circulate freely over the web.
Apple had sought to present itself as a consumer champion, with the group's chief executive, Steve Jobs, insisting earlier this year that his company would drop DRM "in a heartbeat" if allowed to by the labels.
The iTunes Store has sold over 2.5 billion songs, 50 million TV shows and over two million movies, making it the leader in each of those markets.