Posted on February 11, 2022 in Technology

Audacity Security Breach

Audacity is a free software that would allow you to edit audio files. It was an excellent software, one that despite being free was remarkably flexible and stable, a godsend for newbie producers and potential hobbyists who aren’t sure they’re ready for a more expensive program. Or worse, a subscription service. Audacity fell from favor after an update threatened the security and privacy of it’s users after Muse Group purchased it.

Audacity’s newest privacy update (as of April 2021) now specifies that they’re allowing themselves to ‘collect data’ for ‘potential buyers’ and ‘law enforcement’. They do not specify what data they’ll be collecting, or if it’s even limited to the app. They do not specify if law enforcement needs a warrant, or if they’re just allowed to have anything they ask for as a rule. They do not specify what all is included in the group ‘potential buyers’, which – if you think about it – could be literally anybody who could potentially have the money necessary to make the purchase. That’s obviously really broad, but that’s the issue! The full scope of this tiny little throwaway line in the updated privacy agreement carries all this weight on it with no special attention made to highlight it.

Even worse, we know they intend to use that data collection, because they’ve stated children are not meant to use the app (because collecting data on children under the age of 13 is not legal in the US). Telemetry features were very quietly added to the application in that April update, meaning if you’ve updated, there’s a possibility they’ve already begun collecting.

Of course, the company denies that any of this means anything, and says that other privacy policies include the same language. The difference, of course, being that a free, open-source software that wasn’t doing that now is, introducing a whole new set of rules for it’s use. This complicates things tremendously for schools and other reasonable places where kids might learn to use software like Audacity (which is both free and open-source, meaning no copyright issues if no modifications are made) and now they can’t because of that whole ‘violating federal law’ thing.

Substitutes exist, of course. If you look on the web, you’ll see things like Dark Audacity and Reaper, both designed to fill gaps that the original Audacity couldn’t even before that critical update. Audacity making an unfortunate move doesn’t mean everyone else has to, or that they’d somehow cornered the free, open-source audio-editing software market.

Hang in there!