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Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Hi all,

There have been a good number of Last.fm threads (see here, here, here) on HA, including one (two now) that I started regarding what users liked about Last.fm. I asked this because I was considering using Last.fm's "service" but no matter how tempted I was by what Last.fm offered I could never get around the ugly cost of using such a service (see below). However, from all the threads that appear on HA the very thing that put me off never seems to get a mention, and I'm curious as to why. 

Below is a brief outline of my reasons for not using Last.fm (some of which I laid out in another thread), and I'd be very interested to know why this does or doesn't concern HA's membership.

Thanks in advance for your feedback.

C.


The True Cost of Using Last.fm

Quote
The question you have to ask is why did CBS (owned by National Amusements) buy Last.fm?

Was it:
a) because they want you to have a better listening experience, or
b) because they want your data

These companies have a legal duty to profit their shareholders/investors, which means that such (data mining) ventures have to yield fiscal returns. Which in turn means that Last.fm users (via their preferences, passions, and whatever else their data uncovers) are a commercially viable resource. Which in turn means that it's not really your data that is being mined, it's you. Which means the cost of using such services is the cost of selling yourself as a commodity in return for additional playlist functionality.


It's worth checking Last.fm's privacy policy (keeping in mind also, that when companies like Last.fm are sold, their assets are transferred and exploited in whichever way the buyer deems most profitable, and those assets include your data).

The first line of Last.fm's privacy policy should ring alarm bells:
Quote
We have a pretty simple privacy policy. We are reasonably sure this won’t annoy anyone.

The reality is that it's a complicated privacy policy that I'm reasonably sure would annoy almost everyone that a) understands it, b) realises they have rights, and c) understands the concept of privacy.

Here's an example of a simple privacy policy that won't annoy anyone (spot the difference?):
Quote
We do not harvest any personal data of any kind. Information provided voluntarily by you will never be sold, rented, exchanged or otherwise disclosed to any other organisation.

It's helpful to have a little context to weigh up the cost-benefit of using services like Last.fm. It's easy to get greedy with functionality and blind oneself to the real costs involved. We know what we're getting, but what are they getting in return?

One of the great ironies I've had the pleasure of witnessing was seeing the video for Adam Freeland's "We Want Your Soul" posted on Last.fm - and Last.fm users completely missing the fact that the song's lyrics are a poetic, yet almost literal translation of Last.fm's privacy policy.

C.

[EDIT: Typo]
PC = TAK + LossyWAV  ::  Portable = Opus (130)

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #1
That's one way to look at it.
Another way to look at it is I get all the services without giving away a single thread of personal information outside my listening habits, which is nearly worthless as they don't even have demographic information on me, and if you eschew the social aspects they can't even link you to other databases by that means.
Creature of habit.

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #2
@Soap

a) Have you read their privacy policy?
b) Have you ever bought anything from a 3rd party via Last.fm's site?

C.
PC = TAK + LossyWAV  ::  Portable = Opus (130)

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #3
@Soap

a) Have you read their privacy policy?
b) Have you ever bought anything from a 3rd party via Last.fm's site?

C.

a) Yes, but it doesn't matter as they have no information outside my IP address and my listening habits.  Nothing of value.
b) No.

EDIT:

I'm quite curious as to what part of their policy, in particular, you find objectionable.

Creature of habit.

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #4
Well if you're not bothered then that's cool. Like I said, not everyone will have a problem with their privacy policy. There's a good article on the triangulation of data and profiling here. The IP address is the key, if the law changes you may find your thin shield of anonimity is no shield at all.

But that's beyond the scope of this thread.

C.
PC = TAK + LossyWAV  ::  Portable = Opus (130)

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #5
I personally enjoy having an online database of all the music I listen to.  I also enjoy giving other people the ability to check out my music habits is they so desire.  For me it's about sharing my music tastes, finding new music, and showing support for what artists I think are awesome.

Seems like to me if you're concerned about who might see your music habits, you would want to avoid an online, publicly viewable database of your music habits.

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #6
The IP address is the key, if the law changes you may find your thin shield of anonimity is no shield at all.

The IP address is hardly a key, as it changes despite my will as often as my underwear.
And if it didn't - I could do so manually.

Regardless of our differing opinions as to the nature of their policy, you're assuming many things, amongst them:
*Personally identifiable information is given.
*CBS isn't simply making money off of ads and sales commissions.
*Targeted ads are actually seen by savvy users.
Creature of habit.

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #7
I tend to feel very comfortable with the thought of my personal information being available "in the cloud". Aside from my Social Security number, my driver's license number, my phone number(s) and my street address (and of course my financial information), I'm okay with organizations and individuals having access to my search, browsing, listening and other online habits as well as other predominantly useless/worthless information. If by reselling my information to third parties is how a company is able to provide me with services, then I'm actually okay with that as well. Google, for instance, knows quite a hell of a lot about the things I do on the net since I frequently use their Chrome browser: still I have no cause for concern.

Perhaps I'm just blind to the potential dangers, but I for one simply don't see any cause for alarm. Last.fm has A) my IP address and B) records of my scrobbling/listening habits. The only possible danger I can see is that some organization or individual might attempt to target me and my PCs knowing my IP address, opening a gateway for some sort of intrusion or attack, but it'd be pretty arrogant to think that any person or organization would ever bother.

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #8
I tend to feel very comfortable with the thought of my personal information being available "in the cloud". Aside from my Social Security number, my driver's license number, my phone number(s) and my street address (and of course my financial information), I'm okay with organizations and individuals having access to my search, browsing, listening and other online habits as well as other predominantly useless/worthless information.

Have sent you a PM - for privacy reasons. 

C.
PC = TAK + LossyWAV  ::  Portable = Opus (130)

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #9
This event looks interesting (too far away for me - but hopefully they'll publish later):

2009 IEEE symposium on Security and Privacy (May 17 - 20)
De-anonymizing Social Networks
Arvind Narayanan, Vitaly Shmatikov (University of Texas, Austin)
http://oakland09.cs.virginia.edu/papers.html

See also:
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/02/last-...-of-data-mining

C.
PC = TAK + LossyWAV  ::  Portable = Opus (130)

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #10
Quote
See also:
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/02/last-...-of-data-mining

C.


The EFF is like the ALCU of the internet they make a big deal out of everything. I am not saying that haven't done anything useful, but at the same time they would go to the ends of the earth to defend someone file sharing material even if it was copyrighted. Facebook does data mining? I don't what the problem with data mining is. Everyone should be entitled to some privacy online, but it appears as though people are a bit "paranoid" about "big government" intruding upon their privacy. They don't care about you when it comes to data mining all they care about is marketing stuff towards you that you might have some use for.  Facebook for example isn't plotting some evil ploy with your information "selling" it  to the NSA. Besides even if they were for instance and you don't have a criminal record then you probably could care less about you! Lastly it's your fault if you post sensitive information online for all to see. That's just my take on the subject and generally how I feel about it.
budding I.T professional

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #11
If you care that some random website has your IP address you should probably just google IP address until you realize how dumb it is to care that some website has your IP address.

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #12
The EFF is like the ALCU of the internet they make a big deal out of everything. I am not saying that haven't done anything useful, but at the same time they would go to the ends of the earth to defend someone file sharing material even if it was copyrighted. Facebook does data mining? I don't what the problem with data mining is. Everyone should be entitled to some privacy online, but it appears as though people are a bit "paranoid" about "big government" intruding upon their privacy. They don't care about you when it comes to data mining all they care about is marketing stuff towards you that you might have some use for.  Facebook for example isn't plotting some evil ploy with your information "selling" it  to the NSA. Besides even if they were for instance and you don't have a criminal record then you probably could care less about you! Lastly it's your fault if you post sensitive information online for all to see. That's just my take on the subject and generally how I feel about it.

1) I assume you mean the ACLU.
2) Who said anything about big government?
3) Trite methods to make privacy concerns the refuge of the paranoid black op-NSA fearing conspiracy brigade say more about your ignorance than anything else.
4) If you want to talk about who owns/is on the board of Facebook you can by PM.
5) Facebook is completely OT - HA is an audio site isn't it?

@ Mike Giacomelli
Quote
If you care that some random website has your IP address you should probably just google IP address until you realize how dumb it is to care that some website has your IP address.

I doubt if anyone does care "that some random website has your IP address".
Are you sure you posted in the right forum?

C.
PC = TAK + LossyWAV  ::  Portable = Opus (130)

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #13
The first line of Last.fm's privacy policy should ring alarm bells:
Quote
We have a pretty simple privacy policy. We are reasonably sure this won’t annoy anyone.

The reality is that it's a complicated privacy policy that I'm reasonably sure would annoy almost everyone that a) understands it, b) realises they have rights, and c) understands the concept of privacy.


I wrote that line when we really did have a simple one-page privacy policy, before some lawyers came and fucked it up (I believe that was before the CBS buyout, if it matters). You should recognise most of that policy as standard legal stuff. (On the plus side, they did keep the "Lars Ulrich at gunpoint" line.)

You have *no* obligation to give last.fm any personal information at all. That is the best (and safest) privacy guarantee any company could ever give you, seeing as the lawyers insist that privacy policies contain a clause which lets companies change it at any time.

On Last.fm, all your listening data, as well as your real name, and other personal data you entered, is available to everyone through the API. We're not just sharing your data with big evil corporations, we're sharing it with everyone.

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #14
I don't understand the point of this thread? It's up to the individual what they choose to share with websites?

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #15
Quote
1) I assume you mean the ACLU.
2) Who said anything about big government?
3) Trite methods to make privacy concerns the refuge of the paranoid black op-NSA fearing conspiracy brigade say more about your ignorance than anything else.
4) If you want to talk about who owns/is on the board of Facebook you can by PM.
5) Facebook is completely OT - HA is an audio site isn't it?


Yes I meant the ALCU or the EFF is just as bad if not worse. I rarely use Last.fm, but in the Facebook case people were stating quote on quote "Orwellian" policies. You sound like one of these "paranoid" people that I talk to about this stuff all of the time by saying organizations or the government for instance is using their information for more then just data mining. I wouldn't call it "ingorance" I would call it "paranoia" on your part. I don't want to get into it, but there is a new legislation out there in the U.S called the "Cybersecurity Act" that has Civil Liberties nuts all up in arms about granting the president "unprecidented power" in the face of shutting down network in the face of a cyber terrorist attack. I won't get into a political discussion about this here, but I don't think people truely understand what the bill states and just decided to "cherry pick" clauses from it. They also don't understand how important national security is.
budding I.T professional

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #16
I think lastfm does contain rather harmless information about its users. In my opinion social networks like Facebook are far more objectionable.
I'm not a registered user of Facebook and never really visited the site, but I do know various directly comparable German social networks (also from first hand experience).
The amounts and the type of data that some people willingly and maybe even knowingly display there really surprises me. If you are a registered user on certain websites, you can even find people by their full real name. This way anyone can at any given time check out personal details about you. Like for example what place you frequently go to, what party you went to last saturday and if it was good, if you are in a relationship, what your religion/belief is and much more.
This details can be abused in various ways.

I recently read that there were interviews with personnel managers on this topic, I've got no link to prove the authenticity of this though. My memory is not quite good and it's been some time I read this, but it's a scenario I could easily imagine even if I hadn't read about it.
In those interviews most of the personnel managers stated that they have used social networks to find personal details on job applicants. Some even admitted that they have based their decision wether or not to hire someone, on these information (probably not soley of course).

I don't want to completly rail against social networks here. Far from it. I think that social networks are a great way to exchange with people and to get to know people. My point is that one should keep in mind that any information on the internet is eventually public. Mind what you publish about yourself or one day you might find private photographs of you on sites you wouldn't want them on. Or worse.

Back on topic, I use lastfm and I don't mind them having my IP and playback stats. I'm reluctant to buy through lastfm though. I also don't use payback systems, but that's a different thing again. 

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #17
I'm quite curious as to what part of their policy, in particular, you find objectionable.

I am curious about this also. What exactly do you find objectionable carpman?

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #18
Most times I see someone who is paranoid about cookies, data mining, IP addresses, etc I can place a safe bet that OSS is near and dear to their heart. Because its open source and they can see what is in the code. Personally, I love to generalize and to stereotype, so I also assume this type person believes that everything is/should be free.
I think that people who provide me a service should get something in return. If it is a warm fuzzy feeling from being useful, great. If it is a moneymaking venture, cool. I hardly ever see a valid suggestion from these folks as to how a site will generate the money to provide a service without marketing.
Finally, I find it amusing that the people on the one hand believe, in this case, music companies execs are diabolically cunning. In other threads, the same execs are too stupid to walk and chew gum.

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #19
Most times I see someone who is paranoid about cookies, data mining, IP addresses, etc I can place a safe bet that OSS is near and dear to their heart. Because its open source and they can see what is in the code. Personally, I love to generalize and to stereotype, so I also assume this type person believes that everything is/should be free.

Saying "I love to generalize and stereotype" says it all really. Let's see how well it's working for you.
I use TAK (closed) not FLAC (open)
I use MS Office (not open office) on XP (not linux)
I use Cool Edit (not open source)
Foobar (not open source)
and on and on ...

furthermore I don't really have a position on this at all - I see merits in both proprietory/closed source and open source.

Also, even if I could see the code I wouldn't have a clue what it was doing.
I expect very little to be free. If you'd read (or at least understood my first post) you'd realise quite the opposite:

Last.fm are providing something that seems to be free, I was merely pointing out that it's not (there is a cost):

Quote
Which means the cost of using such services is the cost of selling yourself as a commodity in return for additional playlist functionality.

I'll make my position clear in a later post, but in essence I actually agree with probedb:

It's up to the individual what they choose to share with websites?

GHammer however, makes a very good case for not making gross assumptions or stereotyping. So well done for that.

C.
PC = TAK + LossyWAV  ::  Portable = Opus (130)

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #20
Quote
In those interviews most of the personnel managers stated that they have used social networks to find personal details on job applicants. Some even admitted that they have based their decision whether or not to hire someone, on these information (probably not solely of course).

I don't want to completely rail against social networks here. Far from it. I think that social networks are a great way to exchange with people and to get to know people. My point is that one should keep in mind that any information on the internet is eventually public. Mind what you publish about yourself or one day you might find private photographs of you on sites you wouldn't want them on. Or worse.


I agree with you on that front. People should not be posting objectionable content to begin with and they won't run into problems in the future. Those same people also won't have to worry about "potential" data mining of information.
budding I.T professional

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #21
Didn't somebody once say something along the lines of "Just because I'm paranoid, that doesn't mean somebody is not after me."

I was on Last.FM for a while and I'm on Pandora now.  Obviously I'm not very invested in what I've written in the next paragraph.

If somebody did have access to IP logs of many popular websites, I imagine they could do quite a lot.  For example, Let's say I pick some random person on Pandora.  I know what music they listen to.  I can they look at other web logs and find out that computer (if not a particular person) is on HA, and wherever other forum sites.  Now I can figure out what that person is interested in, get a picture of how they think and what they think about.  Then I go onto Facebook and find out their real name.  Now that I have their real name, I could probably find out where they live.  Once I know this, I could contact local grocery stores and find out what they buy.  Add Credit Cards into the mix...

I know this sounds like a tin foil hat scenario.  But I'm confident it's happening to some degree and as more and more of our personal lives get online, the higher potential exists for somebody to track us and figure us out.  Minority report anybody?

Of course, everybody has to figure out where to draw the line for themselves.  Some people post drunk half naked pictures of themselves on social networking sites.  Some people fully encrypt their hard drives and only visit the internet on a fresh virtual machine when using Tor.

Anas - At least on some American college campuses, it has become common for career offices and even other centers (student development, tutorial centers) to have information sessions on social networking sites.  They are trying to encourage students to think more critically about what they put on their websites as employers are looking at these websites (even twitter) to find out if a person is employee material.

I think there was also a recent lawsuit with a student-teacher being denied her degree because she put pictures of herself drinking alcohol on a social networking website.

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #22
Quote
If somebody did have access to IP logs of many popular websites, I imagine they could do quite a lot. For example, Let's say I pick some random person on Pandora. I know what music they listen to. I can they look at other web logs and find out that computer (if not a particular person) is on HA, and wherever other forum sites. Now I can figure out what that person is interested in, get a picture of how they think and what they think about. Then I go onto Facebook and find out their real name. Now that I have their real name, I could probably find out where they live. Once I know this, I could contact local grocery stores and find out what they buy. Add Credit Cards into the mix..


They are called "privacy controls" for a reason. If you don't want people to see potentially embarrassing or personal information use them. It's up to your best judgment to decide what type of information you decide to give out as well.  Unless you have some large cult following on a social networking site to actually believe that somebody cares that much about you is also naive, unless of course you want them to begin with (most people are always looking for attention).



budding I.T professional

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #23
The new version is out, and the plugin for scrobbling doesn't support it. So I gotta ask- what to do?
Did I maybe overlook some plugins on the foobar page or there really isn't a plugin for the new version?

Last.fm (and other audio data mining services)

Reply #24
I'd just like to add that credit card usage is historically far more insecure than browsing habbits.  ChoicePoint, Citigroup or LexisNexis break anyone?

There are far greater security concerns than your personal data being used in advertising campaigns.

 
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