There's a succinct phrase floating around the Internet that goes, "If you're not paying for it, you're the product." This is how Google, Facebook, and other such services operate. You're offered these services not because of the philanthropic tendencies of these companies but rather because you have something of value that they want--your personal information. This information gets churned with the information of countless other individuals and sold to advertisers, who use it to find ways to more efficiently market their stuff. This includes targeting individuals for particular products.
In order for this scheme to work, these forces must collect as much information about you as possible. And, in the case of Facebook, this means making it difficult for you to prevent that information from being shared. Time and again the company changes its policy settings--sometimes without your knowledge--so that more of your information is made available. If you're aware of these changes you can attempt to change them back to more restrictive settings, but it's not often easy to do that, as the settings are designed to be confusing. Additionally, most people either aren't savvy enough to understand the implications of their inaction or are too busy to bother.
The company has made a habit of stepping too far over the privacy line, backing off when enough voices are raised, waiting for things to cool down, and then testing the waters again. These are not the acts of a company that values privacy but rather one that continues to push the limits of what its users and the law will allow.
Given this, do I really trust Facebook to be Simon Pure in regard to promoting music? Of course not. Nor does this do much for my faith in Spotify.
But it does make me think that Apple now has a significant opportunity.
Where Apple fits
As I said in last week's piece, Apple has shown no signs of wanting to get into the subscription music business. The $25-a-year iTunes Match music service will allow you to wirelessly download music you own that can be found at the iTunes Store as well as upload music that isn't in the iTunes Store, but there's no option for streaming or downloading music you don't own, as you can with Spotify, Rhapsody, Napster, Rdio, and Mog.
Suppose this streaming thing catches on--that Facebook demonstrates that people do like to swap playlists and immediately play and collect music recommended by their friends. How could Apple respond?