Audacity publishes updated Privacy Policy and an Apology

MuseGroup, the owner of the open source audio editor Audacity, published an updated privacy policy and an apology today. The company became the owner of the Audacity repository back in May 2021 and has stumbled from one PR catastrophe to the next since then.

It started with the plan to introduce Telemetry in the open source editor. Audacity is an offline program for various platforms, and Muse Group suggested that Telemtry, which would be opt-in, would help focus development.

The plans to introduce Telemetry were dropped after Muse Group was criticized for the plan. Audacity would still contain an option to provide error reports, but users would be in command of the sending.

audacity 2.2.0

A Privacy Notice published in the beginning of July started the next controversy. It listed information that Audacity might collect, e.g. when the built-in automatic updating functionality is used.

Muse Group tried to clarify the newly published privacy policy and admitted back then that some phrases were unclear.

Today, Muse Group published an update to the privacy policy and an apology on the official Audacity GitHub repository. The updated privacy policy of Audacity is available on the official site.

The update addresses the main points of criticism leveled against the previous version of the privacy policy.

In particular, the following points are changed:

  • The provision that discourages users that are younger than 13 years to use Audacity has been removed.
  • The purpose of the error reporting and update checking functionality is explained.
  • The full IP address is never stored (either truncated before hashed, or discarded).
  • The "collecting personal data for law enforcement" paragraph makes it clear that no additional data is collected.

The following table was published on the Audacity website:

Network featureData collectedPurpose
Check for updates• User-Agent string (Audacity version, OS name and version)
• Country from IP address
Audacity will periodically check to see if a new version of the application is available.

This feature is on by default. We provide clear links to disable it when the app is first opened.

Error reports• Basic technical data (CPU info, Audacity version, OS name and version)
• Error codes
• Stack trace
If a serious error occurs in Audacity, you are shown the relevant information and given the option to send it or not sent it to us as a report.

We use this information to help us detect serious issues and fix them quickly.

Closing Words

It remains to be seen if the revised Privacy Policy and apology will result in a calming down of the entire situation. A potential next issue, concerning a Muse Group employee, is currently being discussed on Twitter and elsewhere.

Now You: what is your take on the revised policy and apology?

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Audacity publishes updated Privacy Policy and an Apology
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Audacity publishes updated Privacy Policy and an Apology
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MuseGroup, the owner of the open source audio editor Audacity, published an updated privacy policy and an apology today.
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Comments

  1. Simon said on July 23, 2021 at 8:58 am
    Reply

    Too late for some people like me. Will _never_ use any version that was released after 2020 of this application.

  2. anona said on July 23, 2021 at 10:10 am
    Reply

    That’s a step in the right direction. Still, I suppose many users will not be comfortable with Audacity anymore, and rather will use a fork such as Sneedacity.

  3. ShintoPlasm said on July 23, 2021 at 11:04 am
    Reply

    Trust is something you lost only once and can never fully regain.

  4. Cake to be had by all ! said on July 23, 2021 at 1:15 pm
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    Desperate move. Too little, too late. Kinda like when a bully at school says a lame “sorry” after beating you, only because his dad was forced by the other parents to force his idiot offspring to apologize. The damage is already done and Audacity is now run by idiots that the whole internet detests. Justice is served.

  5. Mystique said on July 23, 2021 at 3:10 pm
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    So its just informing us in a vague manner why they are now scum… riiiiiiigght.

    You’re dead to me.

    The only way Audacity can live on is if someone forks the development prior to the takeover and makes some ting like an Audacity plus or something like that.

  6. Farmers said on July 23, 2021 at 3:16 pm
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    I see no problems with telemetry, which was always going to anonymised anyway. It seems some folk would rather bite off their own noses than let anonymous data be used to improve the product.

    1. Yuliya said on July 23, 2021 at 10:01 pm
      Reply

      The thing with Audacity is that it’s such a niche product, to the point where all it’s users, and I mean it, every single one of them, is more than capable of reporting any problems they have with the software. I refuse to believe that there is one single user out there who installed and is using Audacity, however they are unable/don’t know how to contact and report a bug back to the developer.

      1. Hans Müller said on July 24, 2021 at 5:59 pm
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        You are thinking it is smaller than it actually is:
        ,,As of April 19, 2021, it is the most popular download from FossHub,[10] with over 110 million downloads since March 2015. Previously, downloads were served from Google Code and SourceForge, with a combined total in excess of 200 million downloads.” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audacity_(audio_editor) )

      2. Anonymous said on July 25, 2021 at 12:18 am
        Reply

        It was the sole alternative to Adobe Audition it was the reason adobe’s software was used less and less by audio pros

  7. Herman Cost said on July 23, 2021 at 4:32 pm
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    While some people will never be satisfied regardless of what Audacity/Muse does, this seems fine to me. The fact that it took 2 1/2 weeks to get this done seems to have been a problem in large part caused by the Muse attorneys. From much experience with working with attorneys on business issues, I’d suggest that Muse might want to consider a search for attorneys who actually understand their client’s business issues and risk factors (e.g., is it really necessary to discourage minors from using this particular software? Was that really a bigger business risk than alientating a vocal and influential segment of the customer base? Was there any reason not to be more transparent from the start about what specific user data elements were being maintained) as opposed to just the narrow legal aspects of something like this, and can therefore focus on what really matters and work through critical problems with their client a lot faster than that. There was no reason for the published clarification to take more than a day or two to produce given that nothing of any substance was ultimately changed, and harm was done to the Company while the lawyers wasted time on what seems to have been nonsense.

    1. Barry said on July 31, 2021 at 12:59 am
      Reply

      I’m no lawyer, but I _think_ the “discouraging minors” part of the legalese might have directly stemmed from the fact that they started collecting all that telemetry. I mean, quite likely it would’ve been a legal minefield for them to ‘spy’ on app usage by kids, even if the ‘spying’ wasn’t malicious or harmful in any way, and the data was supposedly anonymised.

  8. Anonymous said on July 24, 2021 at 12:32 am
    Reply

    I already moved to WavePad.

  9. Usurious said on July 24, 2021 at 1:02 am
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    This is great, secure that I don’t have to trust another fork that could contain malware, but let’s hope it isn’t like a politicians promises.

  10. allen said on July 24, 2021 at 5:09 am
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    People should read the article(s) over at Ars Technica about the Audacity/Muse Group issues instead of reading all of the twitter et al “tempest in a teapot” nonsense.

    1. Barry said on July 31, 2021 at 2:25 am
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      So not one but two employees of MuseGroup, including the Director of Strategy mind you, very publicly threatening a developer with doxing and violence – this to you is “tempest in a teapot” nonsense? What sort of apologist are you, trying to hand wave away such vile behavior? Shameful.

      https://web.archive.org/web/20210719115639if_/https://github.com/Xmader/musescore-downloader/issues/5#issue-562094186

      https://web.archive.org/web/20210719115639if_/https://github.com/Xmader/musescore-downloader/issues/5#issuecomment-882450335

  11. I'M LOOKING THROUGH YOU said on July 24, 2021 at 6:48 am
    Reply

    People should unify under the biggest fork with the most support and be rid of this bullshit completely!

    Part of the appeal of Linux is free. VLC? Free. MPV? Free. And so on. What would become of Linux if all of these developers and maintainers simply rolled over and sold out?

    Audacity is/was a very useful tool and it’s a shame it had to lead to this. But we can get behind a good fork and forget about Audacity and let the contributers to Audacity dry up until the point where there’s no motivation for them to continue with old Audacity anymore.

  12. Steve said on July 24, 2021 at 7:12 am
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    I will say just this: Muse should hire Michael Carbonaro to make their BS looks legit. They are tweaking and changing and pretending it is all for good. No. You just lost the game. Be happy with whatever you get going forward.

  13. unbreakable said on July 24, 2021 at 8:37 am
    Reply

    If you wish to continue using Audacity for now, here you go:

    Step 1) Install firejail
    Step 2) $ firejail –net=none audacity

    And you should be good.

  14. Scale for banana said on July 24, 2021 at 9:34 am
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    Greed is a nasty thing. Fake, forced “apologies” are hysterical to witness. Ever seen one of those pedofiles get caught and then cry and apologize on camera? This is that.
    Just do what you planned all along, make Audacity a paid product. Who knows, maybe some dumb f**k WILL pay for it and you’ll get your precious hard-earned and well deserved money, you greedy monkeys.

  15. Trey said on July 24, 2021 at 11:05 am
    Reply

    Whatever. This app would be blocked at my firewall regardless.

  16. ULBoom said on July 24, 2021 at 3:09 pm
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    I bet Muse sells Audacity. They’re even worse at PR than facebook. And that employee? WTF?
    Must be a record for destroying a reputation, two months?

  17. jeff-66 said on July 24, 2021 at 5:19 pm
    Reply

    Like others, firewall blocked and no more updates. An open source application should never be in the hands of a single 3rd party group like this in the first place.

  18. Max said on July 24, 2021 at 10:09 pm
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    I’ve been an occasional user of Audacity for years. Next time I need it, I’ll be using either Tenacity or Sneedacity – depending on which one looks the most interesting fork.

  19. spellcheck said on July 26, 2021 at 1:17 pm
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    as usual, the authors never heard of spellcheckers.

  20. Mystique said on July 28, 2021 at 1:54 pm
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    Why does everything have to have telemetry these days… oh yeah Microsoft weighed in on it and I guess if everyone rolled over on them doing it then it was fine for everyone else right??
    Isn’t anyone concerned that their computer may end up running loads of services and process that aren’t even necessary? Surely that should concern anyone even if they completely trust a random faceless company that has absolutely no long standing goodwill with the community.

    Makes me wonder how audacity ever became so good without telemetry… shrugs.
    They must have been fricken geniuses or mind readers prior to the buy out/take over.

    1. Barry said on July 31, 2021 at 1:12 am
      Reply

      Telemetry ain’t magic for sure and most definitely cannot fix bad coding by incompetents, but it ain’t inherently evil or the Devil either like many totally ignorant and FUD-believing gullible folk make it out to be. Not to mention telemetry can indeed be collected without any major performance/system impact, i.e. without running loads of unnecessary services and processes.

      Of course, none of this implies that adding telemetry was absolutely essential to improving Audacity (unlike say something as complex a behemoth as Windows), or to excuse the bizarre missteps and downright comically idiotic behavior of the new owners.

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