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Personal Data Hidden in iTunes Tracks

June 4, 2007

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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 Web sites 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 management (DRM) software that is designed to safeguard against piracy.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an 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.

Ars Technica, among the first Web sites to unveil the hidden information, said: “Everyone should be aware that while DRM-free files may lift a lot of restrictions on our personal usage habits, it doesn’t mean that we can just start sharing the love, so to speak. Sharer beware.”

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