Jay-Z’s got 99 problems and his app privacy is 1

app privacyJay-Z and Samsung shook up the music industry model by trying a new release format for the rapper’s upcoming album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, and it didn’t quite work as planned.

Samsung paid $5 million to give away 1 million digital albums to fans through an app in the Google Play store on July 4th, several days ahead of the full release. When app users went to download the album at its release time, the app was frozen, prompting the hashtag #SamsungFail to start trending.

But the real failure, although less obvious, were the invasive permissions the app required users to accept. Let’s remember that it’s an album app; the point is to listen to an album. Yet it required access to people’s information that far exceeded its purpose. It wants to know almost everything your phone is doing.  

Some make sense, like storing downloaded files (the album) on the user’s device. But most don’t, like these:

  • Phone status and identifiers
  • Contacts/accounts
  • Facebook and Twitter logins, plus posting permissions
  • Device GPS location, approximate or precise
  • Info on other apps running on the device
  • Full network access

app privacyOver half a million people downloaded it and potentially exposed their info to lots of third parties. And post-NSA, we know how easily private info, like that collected by apps, becomes government info. Big data is big everywhere, including the music industry. Digital music marketers want to know as much as they can about their fans and potential customers, to the point of invading their privacy.

Data can be helpful and has a lot of great uses, like getting to hear your favorite artist’s album early, but marketers need to balance that with privacy. They should take only what they need for an app to do what the user wants–in this case, hear an album or preview lyrics–not what they want. And here, the app didn’t even work correctly.

Jay-Z has millions of fans across the world, which gives him the perfect platform to set things right. He could re-release the app without these excessive permissions (and have it actually function) and tell his networks that privacy is important. And an apology would be nice.




3 comments shared on this article:

  • CT says:

    When you swim in a ghetto toilet don’t be surprised when you catch a disease.

  • M says:

    What’s your advice regarding these invasive permissions? I’ve noticed iOS has a better policy vs. Android when it comes to the hoops developers have to jump through, such as the former who doesn’t allow promotion of third parties through their apps. I know the best advise isn’t to use the apps, but sometimes that’s near impossible. Which permissions are complete red flags; maybe you could tell us in order of importance? Some permissions are obvious (admin access), but some are not. Could you break it down? Thanks.

    • There are approximately 70 different permissions that app developers can use, and many are quite invasive when it comes to online privacy. They can also be vague (what does “access my basic information” actually mean?) This makes it pretty complicated for everyday Facebook users to sort through the risks.

      If you’re concerned about privacy, you should never approve these 3 app permissions:

      1. Read Requests: Probably the most privacy-invasive permission, Read Requests can make the request “read_mailbox,” which lets apps read the private messages in your inbox. Do you really want app developers, companies, and advertisers accessing your personal communications?

      2. Access Your Friends’ Data: Be a considerate friend and avoid using apps that access your friends’ data, especially more sensitive information such as “current location,” “access to friends photos,” “access to religious or political views,” “access to family or relationship status,” “access to videos,” and “access to friends “email addresses.” Even if your friends have strong Facebook privacy settings, you may end up weakening them through your own app choices.

      3. Publishing Requests: We’ve all seen Farmville make (sometimes excessive) posts to our friends’ walls: this activity is driven by a permission embedded in the Farmville app they approved. While the fact that you’re looking for some water for your crops isn’t exactly a personal secret, this permission may publish much more sensitive information including what you’re reading and the sites you’re viewing.

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