February 20, 2009 at 17:46 PM EST
Did Last.fm Just Hand Over User Listening Data To the RIAA?
That leaked U2 album is causing all sorts of trouble. The unreleased album, which is due out on March 3, found its way onto BitTorrent and was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. That, apparently, sent music industry lawyers over at the Recording Industry Association of America into a fit. As a result, word is going around that the RIAA asked social music service Last.fm for data about its user's listening habits to find people with unreleased tracks on their computers. And Last.fm, which is owned by CBS, actually handed the data over to the RIAA. According to a tip we received: I heard from an irate friend who works at CBS that last.fm recently provided the RIAA with a giant dump of user data to track down people who are scrobbling unreleased tracks. As word spread numerous employees at last.fm were up in arms because the data collected (a) can be used to identify individuals and (b) will likely be shared with 3rd parties that have relationships with the RIAA. Supposedly, the operations team which handed over the data in the first place weren't told the true purpose for the transfer or who was getting the data until after the fact, and only when they had to help with some corrupted data. It sounds like it was more of a corporate decision. I've contacted both CBS and the RIAA. Most of the Last.fm team is in London, where the weekend has already started. For now CBS says: "To our knowledge, no data has been made available to RIAA." (The RIAA declined to comment).
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