Is audio editing tool Audacity turning into spyware? (updated)

Posted on Tuesday, July 06 2021 @ 14:20 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck

UPDATE (July 7, 2021):

Following the public outcry, Muse Group issued a statement that it will adjust the privacy policy. The firm has clarified which data it collects, and provided more details about how data is stored and processed. Muse Group claims the data it collects is very limited and stresses that IP addresses are pseudonymized and irretrievable after 24 hours.

Whenever the ownership of a company exchanges hands, satisfied users are often worried about the implications for the future of the product or service. Two months ago, the popular open-source audio editing tool Audacity got acquired by music software maker Muse Group.

Users accuse Audacity of being spyware

Since the tool got acquired, Muse Group has made changes that have upset users. This time, there's an outcry about a change to the privacy policy. Muse Group has added sections that give it the right to collect various personal data, including details about your system's processor, operating system, your IP address, crash reports, fatal error codes, etc.

The new policy mentions all personal data is stored on Muse Group's servers in the European Economic Area (EEA) -- but it also mentions data may be "occasionally" shared with the main office in Russia and external counsel in the USA. Muse Group's privacy policy also contains a blanket statement that any data collection can also be shared with law enforcement, government agencies, courts, potential buyers, or other third parties.

Mac Rumors reports there is already discussing about making a fork of Audacity:
Understandably, the policy changes have upset Audacity users, who have taken to Reddit and GitHub to question why an offline desktop app needs to "phone home" at all, and there is already discussion about forking Audacity into a separate open-source project that's free from the Muse Group's ownership and questionable data collection practices.
In May, Muse Group tried to add telemetry features to Audacity but this move got reversed after a lot of angry complaints from Audacity users. It's unknown whether the new privacy policy is an indication that Muse Group still plans to use Audacity to collect user data -- or whether it's just the legal department covering all angles.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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