Why can’t Deezer answer simple questions about privacy?

Deezer website screenshot

I've just bought an Onkyo TX-8150 network receiver. Lovely. Especially because it can drive two pairs of speakers, eats so-called hi-res music (24/192 with a 32/384 Hi-Grade DAC), and comes ready to play nice with the likes of Spotify, Airplay and Deezer.

Spotify tarnished its reputation somewhat with its privacy cock-up last year, and doesn't yet entertain hi-res. Apple's Airplay looks neat but doesn't do hi-res either, and totally ignores Android. Hmm. So let's check out Deezer I thought to myself. A rare European Unicorn. And while it describes lossless CD quality as hi-res when that's not really what the term means, I'm not sure my 'listening environment' is that sensitive! Lossless CD quality will do me.

Better check out its app. Google Play points out that the Deezer app has access to a whole heap of stuff:

  • In-app purchases – Allows the user to make purchases from within this app
  • Device & app history – Allows the app to view one or more of: information about activity on the device, which apps are running, browsing history and bookmarks
  • Identity – Uses one or more of: accounts on the device, profile data
  • Photos / Media / Files – Uses one or more of: files on the device such as images, videos or audio, the device's external storage
  • Wi-Fi connection information – Allows the app to view information about Wi-Fi networking, such as whether Wi-Fi is enabled and names of connected Wi-Fi devices
  • Device ID & call information – Allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active and the remote number connected by a call
  • Other – receive data from Internet; delete apps; turn device on or off

All this just to stream some music!!

Onkyo TX-8150
My new network receiver

But, as for any and all apps so described on Google Play, the terminology doesn't convey the self-imposed limits. What do I mean by that?

Well let's say you ask your neighbour to feed your dog at 5pm and give him your door key. There is an implied understanding that with such a privilege he'll let himself in and feed your dog. And then leave. He won't make himself at home and watch a movie. He won't take a shower. And he definitely won't have a look through your drawers.

Neighbours understand the neighbourly context. App developers may well not. So I have sought to find out what Deezer's Android app actually does. I won't catalogue the dozens of tweets or the half dozen or so emails. I will say that the Deezer team is responsive on Twitter but responsive is not a synonym for productive... we've got nowhere I wanted to go since my first tweet seven weeks ago.

To demonstrate the lack of progress, I'll continue my metaphoric story:

Me: Hi. You need my key to feed the dog. Can I just check that you don't intend to do anything else in the process?

Deezer: Yes, we need your key to feed your dog.

Me: Yes yes I know! But you'll have my key! What else will you do with your unfettered access to my home? For example, you might decide to feed yourself too, or use my nail clippers [I was going to get more personal, but you get the idea...]

Deezer: Ah I see. Well, we have to have access to feed your dog.

Agh!

Without wishing to belabour the point, but on the basis that the Deezer customer service team just doesn't get it, I wanted to hear:

Deezer: We both know we need your key to feed the dog. There isn't really a lesser form of access that would serve the same purpose. But don't worry, we intend to feed the dog immediately on arrival and do nothing further and just let ourselves out straight afterwards.

Back in the app world, here's an idea of what I need Deezer to tell me. And more to the point, if they can't confirm this then Deezer makes money by surveilling its customers and pimping that data to whoever will buy it. (I might like lossless CD quality music streaming, but not that much!) Deezer, please tell me:

The app collects information about activity on the device and which apps are running only so that it can help itself optimise for better usage, and for no other reason, and this data does not leave the phone. For the avoidance of doubt, Deezer (the company, as opposed to the app) cannot determine what other apps you have installed and that might be running.

The app reports back “browsing history and bookmarks” that only relate to when you click on a Deezer link requiring a re-direct to the app. This applies to no domains we don't own.

The app needs to know when a call is active to stop playback and, therefore, when to recommence. The app does not record the number of the connected call, and no call history is relayed to Deezer's servers.

And after all that's said and done, I still can't think of one possible reason why the company should want the app to report back the names of all my connected Wi-Fi devices. (Especially those nail clippers.) It's none of their Deezing business.

What do you think?...