iTunes Plus, the DRM-free version of Apple's iTunes Music Store digital download service, is spying on you right now.
Well, sort of. It turns out that iTunes Plus - which has been marketed on the premise that it frees you from all that control-freakery DRM that stops you playing tracks on whichever devices you like - embeds into each digital track the name and email address of the person who bought it. So if it ends up on BitTorrent, record-industry lawyers will be able to track you down and punish you to the full extent of the law.
In the spirit of scientific discovery, I reluctantly purchased a song from iTunes Plus, and as you can see from the screenshot below, my name and email address are indeed visible in the Get Info dialog. So you certainly won't catch me distributing this track illegally! Or buying any more songs by this 'Robbie Williams'.
As Tech Digest points out, it surely won't be long before someone comes up with a program to strip the details out of each track. And it's also difficult to feel hugely sorry for any filesharers who come a cropper as a result of this feature.
No, what rankles is the underhandedness of the thing. This is the sort of creepy, intrusive mechanism that gave technology a bad name during the Sony rootkits scandal - and it hardly provides an incentive for people to buy their music digitally, or to steer clear of P2P sites. Users are free to make up their own minds, and the least Apple could have done is tell people what it was doing.
Opinion: Yo, Apple's uTunes rocks the house!