Jay-Z's 'Magna Carta' App Raises Privacy Issues, Turns Off Some Users (Including Killer Mike)

Jay-Z and Samsung's "Magna Carta" app may have been downloaded by more than half a million people since it launched on June 24, but rapper Killer Mike, a.k.a. Michael Render, isn't one of them.

Why not? Render on Tuesday Tweeted a photo of his screen as he tried to download the app, which promises to give the first 1 million downloaders of the app a free copy of Jay-Z's "Magna Carta Holy Grail" on July 4th, three days ahead of the album's release. Render's screen shows that the app, developed by Samsung as a joint promotion, wanted Render's permission to "modify or delete contents of your USB storage," "prevent phone from sleeping" in order to retrieve running apps, access "approximate network location" as well as "precise GPS location," full network communication access and "read phone status and identity," among other things. To this, Render tweeted, "Naw I'm cool."

It's not unusual for apps to requests access to this information. Many apps, such as Google Maps, require precise GPS data to provide directions. Preventing a phone from sleeping is desirable when people don't want their music streams to stop playing just because the listener hasn't touched the screen in 10 minutes. And when apps are updated, they frequently need to modify how much storage they eat up. Samsung, which purchased the album copies for $5 million and funded the app to promote its Galaxy brand mobile devices, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why the Jay-Z app required such access.

Jay-Z, Samsung Announce Deal to Give Away 1 Million Copies of New LP

In the wake of the National Security Agency's Prism surveillance scandal and recent Congressional focus on privacy, it's also not unusual for people like Render to reject Jay-Z's offer. Render is essentially saying his privacy is worth more than the $10 to $15 price of the album -- no matter how cool the experience.

At the same time time, data collection is becoming a high priority among digital music marketers hoping to learn as much as they can about their fans and potential customers. Balancing that with respect for individual privacy is a tightrope act, one in which the tightrope is constantly shifting beneath the feet. This is because popular perception of what's acceptable can fluctuate based on current events and vary by demographic.

A recent Pew Internet survey showed that teens are less concerned with the information they share on social networks than their parents, for example.

With regard to the effect that current events have on shifting public attitudes, Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, the world’s largest marketing communications group, told Campaign magazine that consumers "are going to get more concerned, and Prism probably makes them more concerned. I’m more concerned."

So far, Render's reservations haven't prevented the app from flying out the Google Play store. The app crossed the half-million download mark on Monday even though the free album had not yet dropped. More than 8,600 reviews as of Tuesday gave the app an above average 4.1-star rating out of 5 stars -- with the vast majority of complaints confined to technical glitches such as inability to load.

Still, Render's Tweet to his 69,000 followers serves as a reminder that there are limits to how much access to private information that fans will give, even to a megastar like Jay-Z.

Tagged