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Windows Media Player records your viewing and listening habits.
February 21, 2002 4:33 AM   Subscribe

Windows Media Player records your viewing and listening habits. But, it's ok cause Microsoft changed their privacy policy to reflect this. Does anyone get surprised by this sort of thing any more?
posted by jeremias (17 comments total)

 
Uh... "no". ;-)
posted by dabitch at 5:11 AM on February 21, 2002


"But thanks to the cookie, that information could be made available to Microsoft."

Could be sent. Not is sent. This is a non-issue.

Insert heavy sigh, followed by weary sarcasm, here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:21 AM on February 21, 2002


Seriously, I can't think of a media player that DOESNT do this:
The software also uses the Internet to generate a table of contents for CD recordings and DVD movies, downloading the information from a database...

Are the CDDB's tracking stats? Probably, but why on earth would anyone care? As far as storing this info locally, like stavros said, MS isn't doing anything with it, and localizing the info means your song lists will load much faster next time, good caching practice.

Phooey, I had it when alarmists like this make me into an MS apologist.
posted by malphigian at 5:46 AM on February 21, 2002


The cookies are really a non issue, but I found this statement in an article from yesterday a bit troublesome:
Jonathan Usher, another Windows Media executive, said Microsoft has no plans to market aggregate information about its customers' viewing habits, but would not rule it out.

"If users tell us that they want the ability to get recommendations, that's something we could look into on the behalf of users," Usher said
Given recent pronouncements from Gates, I'd imagine that Mr. Usher would immediately rule it out. If Microsoft is going to convince people that privacy and security really are "job 1", and not simply some ideas in a memo, they need to get the Mr. Usher's of the organization to play along.
posted by dchase at 6:11 AM on February 21, 2002


Is this the same issue as the super-cookie that is set as a default after install?
posted by machaus at 6:55 AM on February 21, 2002


Hey, I don't mind -- that damn player's never worked well for me, and is ugly to boot.
posted by jragon at 7:01 AM on February 21, 2002


Could be sent. Not is sent. This is a non-issue.

Best rebutted from the article:

''It's a classic example of a company saying, we don't inhale,'' said Smith. ''We take all this data, and we don't do anything with it....

We store this data in a way that's really easy to retrieve from your computer...but we're not going to. Really.
posted by straight at 7:01 AM on February 21, 2002


why on earth would anyone care?

Indeed. Why would anyone care if they put a video camera on every street corner? Ah, nobody cares, and so they do.

Now it's why would anyone care if they put a micro-chip under your skin. Ah, nobody cares, and so they do it.

Next it's going to be why would anyone care if they put a camera outside your house, watching it. Once again, nobody cares..

What's after that? Anybody care?
posted by eas98 at 7:20 AM on February 21, 2002


Theres often concerns expressed about online privacy and the collection of viewing/surfing/using habits by software companies, but I'm somewhat ambivalent about it. Shouldn't I be?

I'm thinking that, yes, MS or whoever can probably get a handle on data about what sites I go to, what I read, what I download and so on. But then I'm thinking, ok, multiply that by, I dunno, a few tens of millions(?) of other people. So what? What is this data worth? How much work is (would?) be involved in getting any meaningful information, other than maybe very broad statistics, from all this data and will they ever bother?

My only concern is that they might be trying to match habits to my identity, but I don't see any claims to that effect. This is not a microchip under my scalp - more like a turnstile counter. That leaves MS, or whoever, with what would seem to be a massive database of clickstreams.

My suspicion is that most of this information is collected because it can be. I've not yet read of such being put to any really imaginative (or sinister) uses. So I don't worry. I can't imagine anyone finding my online habits any more interesting than those of millions of others out there.

Am I too trusting?
posted by normy at 7:36 AM on February 21, 2002


Well I suppose that depends on your personality, from my point of view my personal information should be mine to control.

I see danger in large corporations (or anyone for that matter) possessing large amounts of information on consumer habits without the consumer's knowledge. Microsoft, for example, also owns WebTv and Ultimate Tv (A TIVO like satellite system). With the information they gather from all their potential sources they could do quite a bit if they chose too.

With this latest case, they've simply stuck the fact that they keep records of your habits into a "prvacy statement" which I sincerely doubt many people read. Even if they did read it WMP is default media player for millions. They should give you the option as to whether you want a cookie stored.

I don't like not being in control of personal data about myself. The danger as I see it, is not necessarily the present uses of the data but the *potential* future uses.
posted by jeremias at 8:01 AM on February 21, 2002


I'm not the sharpest pencil in the box, but couldn't one's corporate fears be allayed by simply disabling cookies?
posted by Skot at 8:08 AM on February 21, 2002


OMG, does that mean they know about all my pr0n????
posted by eyeballkid at 8:25 AM on February 21, 2002


Well, I don't see anything wrong with the concept of cookies. They are actually very helpful in most cases, however there are still many people who haven't the faintest idea of what they are or how to turn them off. Furthermore, why should I have to disable a useful feature in deference to one mega-company who could (potentially) use them against my wishes?

Again, as stated above, the technical aspects of the cookie thing is not what bothers me. It's that they don't care who knows about it. Given Microsoft's plan to become the hub of consumer experience (PC's, WebTv, Xbox, UltimateTv, .Net, etc.) why roll over and let them aggregate your personal information for nothing? At least make them pay for it, or allow you to opt out and still use cookies . . .
posted by jeremias at 8:52 AM on February 21, 2002


When the privacy advocates get all heated over non-issues like this, it's why people don't bat an eye over things like the Patriot Act.
posted by owillis at 9:23 AM on February 21, 2002


eas98:
So your analogy is:
A CDDB completely anonymously recording which albums people are listening to (I wasnt even talking about the cookie) is THE FIRST SCARY STEP to big brother putting microchips in your skin.

The CD song lists served is no different than a store saying "hey, we sold a lot of florida oranges this week".

Anyway, thanks for proving my point about alarmists. That sort of overblown slippery slope argument completely cheapens real privacy issues.
posted by malphigian at 9:25 AM on February 21, 2002


oooh...so scary. Almost all media players that play CDs connect to CDDB and cache the results to a local file. Most larger media players also use media player specific cookies to uniquely identify themselves. If you think the supercookie in Windows Media Player is bad, look at what is actually contained in the RealPlayer cookie:

Name,UserID,ZipCode,Country,All Premium Services subscribed to, Age,Gender,Radio Stations recently listened to.
(see Real's privacy policy for a full listing)

Windows Media Player also allows you to turn off the cookie for the Media Player: View-->Options...->Player, Allow Unique Identification. I mean let's get a little perspective here.

The title to this post is also very misleading. WMP does not record your viewing and listening habits, it does save the CD and DVD playlists it downloads. So if you watch twelve straight hours of 'hentai' MPEGs, it doesn't track that. If you listen to nothing but pirated MP3s it doesn't track that.
posted by patrickje at 11:19 AM on February 21, 2002


When the privacy advocates get all heated over non-issues like this, it's why people don't bat an eye over things like the Patriot Act.

Amen, owillis. It's hard to tell which shrill call to arms I should really pay attention to sometimes, and that goes well beyond privacy issues.
posted by holycola at 10:35 PM on February 21, 2002


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