Someone at Apple must be listening!
The company offered every iTunes user (let’s call that half a billion people) a free copy of U2’s latest album.
Largesse, swag, booty, a tchotchke, call it what you will.
U2’s Songs of Innocence was a global freebie annnounced at Apple Live 2014, Apple’s annual product launch extravaganza.
In fact, getting the free album turned out to be an offer so good that you simply couldn’t refuse.
And when I say that, I’m not being metaphorical.
You literally couldn’t refuse, because the product was automatically clocked up as one of your iTunes purchases and downloaded to your device.
By default (unless you had turned on an iTunes feature called Automatic Downloads), the actual music data itself wasn’t pushed to your iPhone.
But the album and its track list arrived automatically:
Strictly speaking, clicking to listen to a song for the first time meant clicking to download-and-listen, but that’s a somewhat pedantic distinction, almost like the difference between double-clicking and single-clicking to open an email attachment.
Opinions were strongly divided.
One Naked Security reader told us:
Hey, it's a gift so stop the ridiculous fussing. If you don't want it just don't download it. OK? My goodness all these desperate, angst-inspiring First World problems.
Another took the middle ground:
The problem is Apple seem to have such brand power over their customers that arrogance is creeping into their marketing.
Still, as others have pointed out, at least it wasn't Justin Bieber.
But one commenter wondered aloud, “Where does this sort of stunt end?”
Today it's the next U2 album. Tomorrow it's a piece of propaganda on your Kindle. The next day it's an app so Big Brother can watch you.
The album certainly wasn’t opt-in, because it turned up without even asking you.
But there were all sorts of problems that meant it wasn’t even really opt-out, either.
For example, you could left-swipe on each song to reveal a button labelled Delete.
Except that you had to listen to the song first.
You could hide the album in iTunes, so you'd still own it, and still be a statistic in the biggest album release ever; you just wouldn't see the album (or end up with it in some randomly chosen playlist).
You couldn't, it seems, disown, unbuy or depurchase it.
Apple has listened, and come up with a free Album Removal Tool, though this part isn't automatic: you have to opt in to opting out:
In fact, if you remove the album now, then from 13 October 2014 onwards, you really will be able to purchase it.
Bono would approve; after all, he told TIME Magazine that he “[doesn’t] believe in free music.”