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Apple Genius in iTunes is evil

October 28, 2008

There’s this new feature in iTunes 8. It’s called Genius. I tell you what: I don’t like it.

I’m all for this genre based music categorizing and all that stuff. It’s a great concept, really. The thing with Genius is just, that it’s indexing all your music, no matter what. I don’t get the part of creating hash values for all your files. Sure, you could have entered the wrong title, artist or album somewhere, right, very thoughtful, but Genius won’t tell you there’s something wrong with a particular song. It doesn’t even care. However, it does index and hash all your files. I don’t get it why it’s doing that. Since Genius is not intended to tell you which songs have the wrong name, it could just use data that has already been collected from songs, Apple sells in the iTunes store. Genius could simply use artist, album and title information to create the so called Genius playlists. Clearly it’s just the user’s fault if a title is wrong, right? I mean, Genius won’t even dare to correct you anyway. But Genius is hashing all your files. It’s hashing all files, for everyone. I am a little paranoid maybe, but my only explanation for this is file sharing prevention and discovery. There’s online stores everywhere, those files can have been hashed by Apple and indexed as ‘fine’. Then there’s the other files, users copied from their CDs to their computer. This is where the evil new Genius feature could make it’s turn. It hashes the files on every computer. This also means Apple is collecting the hash values for every file from every user to provide the Genius results directly from Apple. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Apple uses their servers for the complex algorithm that determines the songs in your library that match each other. It takes ages for huge libraries to collect the hash values and Apple collects them. This means Apple can count how many people have the same file in their libraries. Now there’s the deal:

Apple collects data from the record companies and the online stores, to determine which files are known to be widely spread. If the Apple Genius algorithm on the Apple servers now discovers a file, that has been shared and that is not amongst the files that are sold in online stores, Apple can guess at a certain amount of copies, that those aren’t based on the fair use scenario. Fair use of that media states that you can make copies, and you can even share them with your friends, however there’s a limit when the sharing with friends exceeds fair use. If Apple discovers such shared files, Apple could report them, or even have some revenue out of that, by selling that particular information. It makes the RIAA happy, doesn’t it? I dare to believe that this would be the case. It’s certainly clear that Apple doesn’t really need to hash everyone’s files for determining matching songs. Microsoft’s Zune service provides this song matching and recommendations as well. However, the Zune software does not feel too much of need to analyze and inspect all your files in your library to provide those recommendations for songs you could want to buy. Speaking of recommendations. All the Genius recommendations do is telling you about albums and songs from the selected song’s artist that aren’t in your library. If you already have everything, or if Genius can’t find the artist or album in the iTunes store, well, you just get the current download sales charts. Now that’s a really awesome feature. Apple Genius, it’s just big brother watching your habits, and dare you to download illegal music, big brother will find you! I don’t like it, because even if I don’t download illegal MP3s I might still have friends that send me music files, because they want me to listen to certain music they like. And maybe I will do the same with exactly the same file. That’s completely legal, and still, I don’t like some people watching every move and every step I take. It might sound paranoid, but we’re soon living in 1984 anyway. I think some people, especially if they work for larger companies like Apple, should consider if a certain approach of doing things is reasonable for their customers.

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  1. Apple Genius in iTunes is evil – Dorian's Blog | Iphone Blog January 2, 2010 @ 12:13 AM

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