A small rant about people giving away too much information about themselves on the Internet, companies having problems understanding the Internet and again people jumping too early to conclusions once they hear a rumor on the Internet. Or to be precise: People scrobbling content that they shouldn’t have, companies publishing content that they shouldn’t publish yet and allegedly going after people who downloaded it and users deleting their accounts from a certain social networking site just because they heard a rumor that that site might have leaked information.
Or: How stories like the TechCrunch story about Last.fm, RIAA and user-data as well as all that is going on around it annoy/amuse me to no end.
Two days ago TechCrunch wrote about a rumor that Last.fm might have leaked information to the RIAA that could be used to identify certain users who were listening to previously not officially material by U2. While this rumor has been vehemently denied by Last.fm representatives – and I have no reason to doubt them – this showed two things:
The willingness of people to jump to conclusions without any real evidence or even a hint that there might be more behind all this than a simple rumor
… that people are stupid enough to publish information that they are listening to music that wasn’t released yet.
The first point becomes quite obvious when you think about comments by people who say that they deleted their accounts right after the article was published. If the article had stated that whole affair as a fact, people moving away would have been the only logical and understandable outcome. But the article indicated throughout that it was about a rumor. Am I really willing to delete all my music history because of a rumor and move over to a different service that might in the future also be rumored to hand over such sensitive data?
This brings me to the second point: If you have a pre-release copy/rip of music that you actually shouldn’t have, why, for crying out loud, would you scrobble that? This is so close to going into an electronic store, taking a TV-set, waving to the store owner and walking out of the door without paying right in front of his eyes. In such cases I don’t really see a problem if a company hands over over identifiable data after having received a court-order to do so. Reacting to a copyright holder complaining without any legal base would do some quite irreparable damage to the trust built between a company and its customers. Last.fm can’t be that stupid. At least I hope not. I like their service too much ;-)
Also: As some commenters in that article already wrote: Last.fm solely operates on metadata your player provides. Since it is pretty easy to modify and there is no way to show who actually set the metadata, it’s in my opinion (and INAL) not even close to being a proof of anything. The metadata according the official API documentation only consists of things like the artist’s name, track title, album title, and track number. It also contains an optional MusicBrainz Track ID which is for the player to look up. No checksums, no information about who actually set that metadata.
In this case the whole story is even more entertaining thanks to the source of the leaked songs that caused this whole mess: The Australian branch of the publisher itself [according to Ars Technica]. So does that mean, that those people actually bought those U2-songs legally? At least an article about the leak by Forbes mentions the word “selling”, so does the arstechnica-article. If this is really the case, I just stopped even remotely understanding the whole fuss. If I buy a song legally (because it isn’t my fault when a content publisher publishes content in advance) and those tracks show up as being scrobbled by me on Last.fm … this makes me a fan of a band that took his first chance to legally buy one of the bands products … It’s like Universal doesn’t like fans ;-)
But wait again: According to another article on ArsTechnica a request to turn over some data about U2-listeners was actually never made. So to sum it all up (to my knowledge): Last.fm never gave RIAA user-specific data. Such specific data was never requested by the RIAA (at least not in relation that that leaked U2-album). Some folks panicked and ran away from Last.fm without waiting to see if the rumor was even remotely true. Now I’m really curious who that source TechCrunch quoted really was.
Pure entertainment :D