Techcrunch posted a story on Friday claiming Last.fm ‘may’ have given the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) a stack of user data. “So?” you say. Well, the RIAA could technically detect which specific users had listened to unreleased tracks, with particular reference to the U2 upcoming album which has recently been leaked.
Richard Jones , a co-founder, then commented on the blog post saying:
I’m rather pissed off this article was published, except to say that this is utter nonsense and totally untrue. As far as I can tell, the author of this article got a ‘tip’ from one person and decided to make a story out of it. TechCrunch is full of shit, film at 11.
Russ Garrett, a Last.fm systems architect also categorically denied the rumor in a Last.fm forum:
“I’d like to issue a full and categorical denial of this. We’ve never had any request for such data by anyone, and if we did we wouldn’t consent to it. Of course we work with the major labels and provide them with broad statistics, as we would with any other label, but we’d never personally identify our users to a third party – that goes against everything we stand for. As far as I’m concerned Techcrunch have made this whole story up.”
Now, Richard Jones has written an official blog post titled “Techcrunch are full of shit”. The post links to an Ars Technica article which claims even the RIAA are unsure where the rumour stemmed from.
In the post, Jones goes on to explain:
When you signup to Last.fm and scrobble what you listen to, you are trusting us with your listening data. We take this very seriously. The old-timers on Last.fm who’ve been with us since the early days can attest to this – we’ve always been very open and transparent about how your data is used. This hasn’t changed. We never share personally identifiable data such as email and IP addresses. The only type of data we make available to labels and artists, other than what you see on the site, is aggregate data of listeners and number of plays.
The metrics gathered by Last.fm could quite easily give the RIAA the data required to pinpoint specific users – however in this case, the Techcrunch story and Last.fm’s denials are all we have to go on. Even if the data were to have been handed over, the RIAA themselves have already made clear they would not sue individuals but instead focus on seeking help from the ISP’s themselves – therefore we (as individuals) are never likely to know about it anyway.
The degree of anger from the Last.fm camp is understandable and for their sakes, I hope: a) they are telling the truth and b) if they aren’t, that we never ever know about it as it would likely to lead to one beautiful startup, lost.
Read next: Who needs bluetooth headsets?