New 'Music Tracker' App Monitors Your Apple Music Library for Changes and Raises Privacy Concerns

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
46,715
8,937



Music Tracker, from developer Ben Dodson, is a new app designed to keep an eye on changes made to the music library on your iOS device. After downloading, the app scans a user's music library and then tracks all changes that are introduced, including new song additions, deletions, and metadata changes to details like the title, artist, album, and genre of owned tracks. Whenever a change is discovered, a notification is sent.

While this is useful for those who like to monitor content and changes made manually to a music library to keep personal logs, it's perhaps best suited to Apple Music subscribers. There are instances where content available through the Apple Music service is deleted or changed due to licensing issues with record labels, and this app will allow users to keep track of potential deletions to replace missing music.


As an example, Dodson cites a recent change to a studio recording of Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl," which was silently swapped over to a live version on Apple Music. Music Tracker noted the change and Dodson was able to find a replacement studio recording on another album.

Music Tracker also includes a full Apple Watch app that provides music library details including exactly how many tracks are in a library and how many songs have been added, changed, or deleted each day. There's also a glance view with the same information and a complication for watch faces that support that feature.


During the process of developing Music Tracker, Dodson ran into some potential privacy holes that he feels iOS users should be aware of. With many third-party iOS apps, accessing user information like location, contacts, or photos requires express user permission, but that's not the case with a music library.

According to Dodson, apps are able to access a user's music library and send data on what's included back to a server, allowing it to be used for advertising or tracking purposes. An app can scan through an entire music library in mere seconds, gaining information on the music content you prefer, down to details like the song that's most often played. Dodson also believes this could be a way for advertisers and marketers to track users across multiple devices.
When iOS first came out there was something called a UDID which basically identified your device uniquely. This was used by marketers to track you across multiple apps and build up a profile. This was stopped by Apple a few years back and replaced with an advertising identifier which you can turn off and which can only be used between apps from the same company (where they are probably already tracking you). However, with a full music library, it would be fairly easy to track someone across multiple apps as periodic snapshots could be compared on a server.
Music Tracker, for its part, does not include any in-app purchases, does not require an Internet connection, and does not collect any library data from customers. Dodson says he doesn't know if there are apps that are already collecting music data from customers in the background, but he has filed a bug report with Apple to ask for a permissions feature to be implemented for the music library.

Music Tracker can be downloaded from the iOS App Store for $0.99. [Direct Link]

Article Link: New 'Music Tracker' App Monitors Your Apple Music Library for Changes and Raises Privacy Concerns
 

Defender2010

macrumors 68040
Jun 6, 2010
3,018
901
England
My pet hate about Apple Music is that songs can become unavailable in a flash. We never get to know why, even though albums on the same record label are still present. Penny Dreadful soundtrack just vanished last week.
 

macduke

macrumors G4
Jun 27, 2007
10,614
14,160
Central U.S.
"Raises Privacy Concerns" sounds like the developer is doing something suspicious...
I didn't get that at all from the article. The developer is letting the world know about these loopholes. His software sounds really useful and he spent a lot of time developing it. We shouldn't admonish him for being the messenger.

--

At this point I'm not sure why Apple doesn't have controls in place for restricting anything personal that an app could access. It's not like this is something a legit app is likely to use, so we won't be pestered much by giving permission. But if many apps start implementing this for tracking then it becomes a problem. I don't mind giving permissions to an app once when I install it. It's much more transparent to tell people exactly what the app can access. Hopefully they are able to roll this control into 9.3.
 

LordQ

Suspended
Sep 22, 2012
3,582
5,623
What I don't like about Apple Music is that I can't play songs from other stores (Germany and Japan, precisely). I thought it was" all the world's music". If this could track when a song from another country is available on my Store/Country, that'd be nice.
 

BriSpe

macrumors regular
Aug 25, 2010
123
105
CH
What I don't like about Apple Music is that I can't play songs from other stores (Germany and Japan, precisely). I thought it was" all the world's music". If this could track when a song from another country is available on my Store/Country, that'd be nice.
Yeah I thought that too when they announced it.
 

irfan22

macrumors regular
Sep 10, 2009
115
15
Yup. iTunes Match, Apple Music, and iCloud Music Library.
Ben,

Any plans to include metrics such as most listened to artist/album this week, this month, this year. I am envious that spotify had end of year reviews for their fans but apple did nothing with play counts.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jgelin

gimikinc

macrumors regular
Sep 28, 2008
102
39
Bay Area
With a lot of music seems to be good, as songs randomly disappearing that you think is there, but knowing does that really help besides you know the disposition of the song! ;)
 

bendodson

macrumors member
Jul 12, 2008
36
10
UK
iOS 9.3 adds music to the privacy settings. No problem here.
Actually the media privacy settings iOS 9.3 adds are in relation to modifying the music library. Prior to iOS 9.3 it hasn't been possible for any app to change your library in any way. With iOS 9.3, an app can ask permission (if you're an Apple Music subscriber) to add songs to your library via the StoreKit framework and there is an authorisation step to go through. Confusingly, the privacy setting for this is called "Media Library" but you can still get read only access to the Media Library without your app ever even appearing in this privacy setting list (so this Music Tracker app will run on iOS 9.3 without being asked permission to access your library and you can't change that - I'm suggesting that shouldn't be possible and Apple should make read only access subject to a privacy dialogue).
[doublepost=1453304793][/doublepost]
Does the app tell me if Apple makes changes to the playlists I subscribe to?
It depends on how the playlist has been added; if you had some songs in your library or manually added them then it will but if you just added the playlist then the songs are in a weird limbo whereby they are technically in your library but you can only see them in the playlist, not in the overall library. It's a bit odd.
[doublepost=1453304879][/doublepost]
Ben,

Any plans to include metrics such as most listened to artist/album this week, this month, this year. I am envious that spotify had end of year reviews for their fans but apple did nothing with play counts.
Potentially in the future. As the music library doesn't have any date information those kinds of metrics can only be calculated from the date you install the app (so whilst it could see the song with the highest play count it couldn't say which song you listened to the most last year). This will likely be added once the app has been available for a while and those kinds of stats can be generated based on the snapshots the app stores.
 

Lemon Mac

macrumors member
Jan 20, 2016
97
145
If I wanted tagging I would commit the appropriate misdemeanour and get one of these for free from the government.
 

NMBob

macrumors 65816
Sep 18, 2007
1,080
730
New Mexico
I'd love an app like this for the desktop to keep track of my music. I've got 60K songs and when stuff disappears, it takes awhile to notice.
You could do something like this the UNIX Way by saving a list of the files in '~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Music' and then doing it again at a later time and use diff to compare the two lists.
 

tkermit

macrumors 68040
Feb 20, 2004
3,432
2,363
Is it supposed to monitor only those songs that have been downloaded? I have 18332 tracks in total with only 3933 of them locally available and monitored by this app.