RealNetworks' Privacy Breach Forces Software Change

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RealNetworks Inc., Seattle, issued a public apology this week acknowledging it had improperly gathered information over the Internet about consumers' listening habits through its RealJukebox software application. The company also issued a downloadable software fix it said prevents its product from further tracking and sending personal data from users' computer hard drives to the company's servers.

"When we really wrapped our minds around this, we became convinced that we screwed up," RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser said in a statement.

Dave Steer, a spokesman for privacy seal program TRUSTe, said his organization was "deeply concerned" but would continue working with RealNetworks to ensure it was properly abiding by its privacy policy.

Bruce Kasanoff, CEO of Accelerating1to1, a spin-off of customer relationship marketing company Peppers and Rogers Group, Stamford, CT, said Real Networks is a very sophisticated company that admitted its misstep. But he said far too many other companies don't have a handle on what they are doing.

"They're still saying to their customers, 'Just buy my product, don't talk back to me, just buy my product,' but a true one-to-one relationship doesn't necessarily mean supercharged advertising. It means recognizing that the customer may want you to do something differently."

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