U2’s automatic download controversial

Is Apple’s technology overstepping consumer privacy?

Just a couple weeks ago, I was listening to some music on iTunes, when suddenly, a song I had never heard before started playing; it was a U2 song.

At first I was confused, because I only had one U2 song in my entire library, but it was not that one. I shrugged it off, until another U2 song started playing. I got slightly scared. I thought someone had been using my iTunes account to purchase music and I even went as far as to check my purchase history, which thankfully, showed nothing recent. So what was this strange album which had just appeared in my music library?

As it turns out, Apple was giving out U2’s new album, “Songs of Innocence,” free on iTunes.

The new album acts as any iTunes purchase, meaning it shows up in the iCloud and it cannot be deleted entirely from one’s account. By default, songs in the iCloud are automatically shown in the music library and streamed from the cloud when they are played. If you have your settings set to automatically download new purchases, these new songs will download into your library on any device that your Apple account is logged into.

Many people, including me, are not too happy about this new addition to our playlists. So what is the big deal?

The problem is that there is no notification explaining that the album is free or even that the new album was added to your library at all. Instead of simply adding an optional way of downloading the new album on their website, Apple did something completely unwarranted and shoved it into the playlists of over 500 million iTunes users.

Some ask, “What’s the big deal? If you don’t want the music, just delete it.” They are missing the point. Not only do we reserve the right to manage our own music with our own tastes but we also trust companies like Apple to keep our devices secure, respect our privacy and more. For them to turn around and force some album onto our devices without our permission is pure betrayal. It could have been any band or artist, but it would not make a difference. It is purely the fact that a company thought its right to invade on their users self-managed libraries is the problem.

Recommendations are a popular sight on modern social media sites like YouTube and Tumblr. Personally, I find them annoying as well, but at least they are mostly harmless in that you never have to actually view the recommended content unless you choose to.

This stunt, on the other hand, takes recommendations to a whole new level. Instead of simply suggesting you check out new content, it downloads the content onto your computer or account without notice, then says “Hey, now its here, but if you don’t want it, then you can just delete it!” But in truth, if I did not want it, then it should not have been downloaded onto my account in the first place.

Nothing is truly free; Apple paid U2 over $100 million to release the album for free, according to the New York Times. This is no “gift” or even act of generosity, as Apple and U2 like to say. Would a company pay millions of dollars in an act of generosity to its customers? No, this is simply an exclusive deal. In fact, “Songs of Innocence” is not available for download anywhere but iTunes until October 13. Apple is only hoping to reel in some new customers with this deal.

This raises some concerns for future marketing practices. It is no secret that content creators can pay companies to promote their content on nearly all forms of social media today. Just look at promoted tweets on Twitter or promoted posts on Facebook. So is this just the start of even more obnoxious content promotions on iTunes and other media services? Soon enough we will find bands paying Apple to push albums or individual tracks to iTunes users’ libraries in effort of promoting their group. Apple may start a common practice of paying popular music artists for more exclusive deals in hopes that they will lure in more customers.