RealNetworks apologises for invading user privacy

In response to widespread criticisms that it breached user privacy, Real Networks has apologised to users as it issued a patch that will prevent its RealJukebox software from surreptitiously monitoring user behaviour. The company also promised to revamp its privacy policy.

The new software patch will also prevent such data from being sent to RealNetworks or other third parties, RealNetworks said in a statement. The move came after reports revealed that personal information about users of the company's RealJukebox was being sent to RealNetworks without users' knowledge or consent.

RealJukebox is a widely used software application that lets users download compressed music files onto their PCs and then listen to them either on the PC or via a portable digital music player.

RealNetworks claimed it was only collecting "aggregate" statistics on how RealJukebox is used, rather than gathering information on individual users.

"We made a mistake in not being clear enough to our users about what kinds of data was being generated and transmitted by the use of RealJukebox. We respect and value the privacy of our users, and we deeply apologise for doing anything that suggests otherwise," said Rob Glaser, chairman and chief executive officer of RealNetworks, in the statement.

The company has nonetheless stopped collecting data until after it develops a way to get users consent and makes privacy enhancements to its software, the statement said. It has also stopped asking users to provide their e-mail address and name when they download its software.

RealNetworks said that it has also begun an immediate review of its privacy and data collection practices.

More information on the patch can be found at http://www.real.com/rjcentral/privacyupdate.html

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