U2 Album Leak: Investigators Still Haven't Found What They're Looking For

Dennis Faas's picture

Internet radio site Last.fm has denied reports that it told the record industry which of its members had listened to a leaked U2 album. The site claims the entire story, published by Techcrunch, was made up.

Last week the record industry became extremely concerned after U2's forthcoming album appeared on several torrent file sharing sites. While there is no way any users could have acquired the album through Last.fm, the site's statistics suggest that more than 8,000 users have played the unreleased album on their machines.

Employees 'Up In Arms'

Late on Friday night the tech blogging site TechCrunch printed a story about the album leak quoting an unnamed source who said, "I heard from an irate friend who works at CBS that Last.fm recently provided the RIAA [Record Industry Association of America] 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." (Source: techcrunch.com)

However, a representative of the site soon posted a denial on a user forum saying that "[Last.fm would] like to issue a full and categorical denial of this. [Last.fm has] 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." (Source: last.fm)

'No Data Made Available'

Erick Schonfield, the reporter who wrote the TechCrunch story, says he tried to get a response from Last.fm but they simply wrote a one-line response saying "To our knowledge, no data has been made available to RIAA." For some reason, Schonfield didn't include this in his original story.

Over the weekend he insisted Last.fm's responses didn't clear up the question of whether the 'broad statistics' shared with the record labels could identify individual users. However, he has now published a follow-up comment from the site confirming it doesn't provide any firm with details that can link a particular album to a particular user.

Last.fm also says that if any users have panicked and cancelled their accounts over the story, they should contact support to see if the accounts can be reinstated, complete with their 'scrobbling' history. (Source: guardian.co.uk)

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