A new version of Apple's iTunes software that makes purchase suggestions based on user listening habits is raising privacy concerns in the computer security blogosphere.

A new version of Apple's iTunes software that makes purchase suggestions based on user listening habits is raising privacy concerns in the computer security blogosphere.

iTunes version 6.0.2, released Jan. 10, includes a “MiniStore” feature, which appears inside the user’s library of songs. Selecting a song in the iTunes library will bring up in the MiniStore related tracks for sale by the artist and by similar acts.

A number of technology- and Apple-focused websites including since1968.com, Boing Boing, Slashdot and Macworld were quick to flag the issue, complaining that the feature identifies and makes purchase suggestions on songs that were not necessarily bought through iTunes.

They also gripe that Apple didn’t properly disclose what type of data is transmitted, and what information is or isn’t being collected in connection with the MiniStore.
Apple isn’t exactly hiding the MiniStore, which is now a default view in iTunes. In announcing the iTunes upgrade on its own site, the company is highlighting the new feature. "While you’re browsing your own library or importing a new CD, MiniStore appears at the bottom of the iTunes window and shows you other albums from your favorite artists and artists like them," Apple says on the site.

The feature is also easily disabled with a button inside iTunes, and Apple says it is not collecting any consumer data.

But in the wake of the scandal surrounding Sony BMG’s using copy protection software on CDs that may compromise the security and/or privacy of user’s consumers, sensitivity to the issue is running high.
“This isn’t about the MiniStore itself,” said Rob Griffiths in a Jan.11 blog post on Macworld.com. “It’s about Apple’s attitude in rolling this change out to the millions of iTunes users, without as much as a peep about what’s going on behind the scenes.”