Privacy Alert: iTunes Makes Stalking Easy

iTunes is a creepy program.

Apple’s almost-handy music program has a feature called “Shared Libraries.” It enables you to share your iTunes library with anyone on the same network, including any and all strangers. If you want to spread your fantastic taste to those around you, simply open iTunes and wait for them to bow before your superior ears.

On Monday I was sitting in a reading room in the British Library, and upon opening iTunes was immediately greeted with a list of other iTunes users within range – this even though I had not connected to the internet or even joined a network. I clicked on the library belonging to “L.Y.” (her full name appeared on my screen), browsed through her collection, and discovered that she has a wonderful medieval music album by Jordi Savall, Alfred Cortot’s Debussy, Pablo Casals’ Bach cello suites, and a truly comprehensive collection of Glenn Gould’s Bach. She has a 90-minute-long playlist of songs with “morning” in their titles. Her favorite tracks are Aretha Franklin’s “You Send Me,” an obscure cover of “Sittin Here Drinkin,” and polished French pianist Alexandre Tharaud playing Erik Satie.

L.Y. has nearly six hours of music by a composer named R.L., whose name I have also shortened because a quick Google search of his name revealed that they are dating, and her total collection comes out to 228 days’ worth of music, which for some reason takes up less than half the disk space of my 57 days’ worth of music.

Naturally, I immediately wanted to find out if somebody else can listen to the stuff in my library. But I could not figure out how to do this. I had “Home Sharing” turned off, but of course was not at home. Finally, Google informed me that there is a check-box to leave unticked under “Edit > Preferences,” and that even if you do tick the box you can demand that people enter a password before entering your library.

Still and all, most people don’t put up walls around their music collection. At the British Library that day there were seven iTunes libraries picked up by my computer, and only one of them was password-protected. Here in my dorm room there’s a library available from someone named “Mike” and I can see he has broad tastes. Mike has both death metal and “The Best of ABBA.” He’s also got My Chemical Romance music videos and three Mariah Carey albums. I am officially creeped out.

But back to the original topic: L.Y., if you’re reading this, it’s a good thing I was in a mood for a symphony by Kurt Atterberg because otherwise I would have been enjoying your music and wondering just who the heck you are. (Not that I’m wondering: you have a compendious website!) Even without listening to your music, I can tell from your playlists that you love the poetry of Rumi, enjoy watching TED Talks, and have previously attended, or are currently attending one of, or enjoy free podcast lectures from, Stanford and Texas A&M Universities. Unless you want to advertise this to any old stalker (you’re probably safe in the British Library, but who knows who’s lurking?), I suggest you password-protect your iTunes library or close the door on it entirely.

iTunes is a creepy program.


Filed under Reality

2 responses to “Privacy Alert: iTunes Makes Stalking Easy

  1. Sorin

    Hey Brian! I think Media Player does the same library sharing thing. Hope all is well on that side of the Atlantic. do you know if anyone at Wiess happens to own The Fall? 🙂


  2. Hahahaha I think people’s music tastes say a lot about them, but I don’t find this to be ALL that creepy. Unless you’re going to use this information to get inside their head (/pants) cheesy- rom-com style. But that’s a different story.

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