Confusing Washinton Post article insinuates that Apple’s iTunes delivers adware

Today, The Arizona Republic has reprinted an article (headlined: “Danger accompanies music downloads”) by Don Oldenburg, Washington Post Staff Writer, that was originally published by The Post on Tuesday, December 28, 2004 under the headline, “Trouble Can Be Downloaded Along With Music.”

Oldenburg’s article contains this passage:

…Technology-security experts warn that many owners of MP3 players don’t know what dangers lurk behind some music.

“The risk has skyrocketed,” says Kraig Lane, group product manager at Symantec, a maker of computer-security products. “The bad guys are putting evil agents into music files and even videos that we are downloading. Music files especially. And you don’t know it’s there.”

The big problem is that some music services deliver something in addition to free software and music. They sneak in adware or, worse, viruses and spyware. Particularly suspect are the free and legally questionable peer-to-peer (P2P) file-swapping networks such as Kazaa, BearShare and LimeWire, that connect millions of home-computer users.

Even reputable online music stores sometimes install adware. Considered the most benign of such programs, adware hides in the background of a computer to track user online behavior and report it to advertising companies so they can target ads. The practice is legal, and users often grant tacit permission to receive it when accepting licensing agreements at Web sites.

Such downloading has become big business for those sites. Apple reports that music fans have downloaded more than 200 million songs from its iTunes Music Store since its launch in 2003. Featuring more than 1 million tracks at 99 cents each, iTunes now sells nearly 5 million songs a week.

Full Arizona Republic reprint here and link to the original Washington Post article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The original Post article comes complete with a photo of an Apple iPod U2 Special Edition (incorrected credited: “Rio Audio Via AP”) along with the caption, “Digital devices such as the Apple iPod U2 Special Edition allow their owners to play music files downloaded from the Internet, but experts warn that those downloads may contain more than just a favorite song.”

If your average Joe read this article, what impression would he come away with regarding Apple’s iTunes Music Store? Would he read it and understand that some files on P2P file-swapping networks can contain “adware, viruses, and/or spyware?” Or would he come away with the wrong idea and think that the same “evil agents” lurk within files purchased from Apple’s iTunes Music Store. What do you think?

So, was the writer Don Oldenburg uncertain about the facts, or was his intent to create uncertainty about Apple’s iTunes Music Store, or did his editor chop up a perfectly logical article into the complete mess we see today, or perhaps something entirely different?

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Windows Media songs and videos found to carry Windows malware payloads– December 30, 2004


  1. You know, guys, maybe there’s another explanation for this. Maybe iTunes really does install secret covert programs in the background… I mean, I lost a file last week that I swear I didn’t delete. What other explanation is there for THAT!?! Oh my god… maybe iTunes is watching me right now… Um, I love iTunes, don’t you? It’s just great! All hail iTunes! (Somebody please call the police for me, I think it may have tapped me phone. I’m not safe here!)

  2. Quote: “The bad guys are putting evil agents into music files and even videos that we are downloading. Music files especially. And you don’t know it’s there.”

    Evil agents?

    Like Boris and Natasha? (“Look! Is moose and squirrel!”)


    Goldfinger? (“Do you expect me to talk?” “No, I expect you to DIE, Mr. Jobs….”)

    Fat Bastard?

  3. I’ve read both articles and, to be honest, I find the original Washington Post source the more troubling.

    But behind it all are our friends at Symantec, once again spreading FUD and trying to shift product as opposed to focussing on the more serious issue which is that downloading music – or indeed any copyright content – from Kazaa, BitTorrent et al is actually illegal.

    Surely that’s the lesson that the media should be promoting, rather than quoting the improbably named Kraig Lane.

    On another topic – that of adware – he surely has iTunes confused with RealPlayer or Windows Media Player, the latter of which actually asks if it can forward data on your content back to the Mothership. A few gentle e-mails might be appropriate.

  4. I’ve asked him to inform me if he has any evidence that iTunes downloads anything other than an AAC file.

    “Errr not exactly. Probably not…” I expect him to say. Poor article again which just goes to show how much misleading misdirected information there is going around due to blatantly lazy journalists.

  5. Wow, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt but even minimal research by this so called columnist would have caused him to point out that this doesn’t apply to ITMS and the iPod.

    I guess in this day and age where the criminal organization in the white house can lie with impunity, nobody fact checks anymore.

  6. Oh yeah “CitizenX”, you and your fellow libbie fanatics never lie though do you? Next time keep your wacko leftist political opinions to yourself when it doesn’t have anything to do with the topic at hand anyway moron…

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.