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
- Facebook and Twitter logins, plus posting permissions
- Device GPS location, approximate or precise
- Info on other apps running on the device
- Full network access
Over 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.