One of the greatest strengths of open source software is of course its openness, which brings other advantages such as freedom of use, security through control, flexibility and more. This is mostly due to the open source friendly licenses these programs use, but from time to time someone comes by and tries to make changes that infuriate the community of users and developers. Sometimes these changes can even be illegal. This seems to be the fate that befell Audacity, one of the most popular open source software in the world, which is now falling under a very invasive privacy policy.

The brouhaha started just a few months ago when Audacity was bought by Muse Group, the company behind popular music software like MuseScore, which is also open source, and Ultimate Guitar. So far, Audacity remains open source (and can’t really be turned into proprietary software in its current form), but that doesn’t mean the Muse Group can’t make some pretty damaging changes. These changes come in the form of the new privacy policy, which was updated just a few days ago, a policy that now allows user data to be collected.

As a desktop application without core online functionality, Audacity never had to “call home”. Now the privacy policy states that the new company is collecting data, and doing so in both overarching and vague ways, most likely on purpose. For example, it says that it collects data that is necessary for law enforcement purposes but does not specify what type of data is collected.

There are also questions about the storage of data that is on servers in the USA, Russia and the European Economic Area. For example, IP addresses are stored identifiable for a day before they are hashed and then stored on servers for a year. The new policy also prohibits people under the age of 13 from using the software, which as FOSS Post points out, is a violation of the GPL license used by Audacity.

The open source community was understandably upset by these changes. Fortunately, Audacity is open source software and is most likely being steered in a different direction, perhaps by a different name, by the community. That is left to the Muse Group to develop Audacity itself, rather than being able to capitalize on (and exploit) the hard work of the open source community.

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