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Rap for rap chap in crap rap app flap: Jay-Z blasted by privacy bods

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Privacy campaigners have demanded a US watchdog halts the spread of an official app that plays rapper Jay Z's new album.

The multimillionaire hip-hop megastar, also known as Mr Beyonce, released Magna Carta Holy Grail, his latest musical effort, on 4 July as a downloadable application for users of Samsung phones. The South Korean tech giant bought a million digital copies of the album to dish out for free to punters.

But it's alleged the software went too far by hoovering up fans' sensitive information and other data from the Android smartphones.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a legal complaint [PDF] that claims the app "collected massive amounts of personal information from users and required substantial user permissions".

It wants the FTC to stop distribution of the app until the alleged privacy issues are sorted out in a fresh probe.

The privacy group wrote: "Samsung failed to disclose material information about the privacy practices of the app, collected data unnecessary to the functioning of the Magna Carta app, deprived users of meaningful choice regarding the collection of their data, interfered with device functionality, and failed to implement reasonable data minimization procedures."

According to the legal filing, Mr Zed's app asked for permission to modify or delete the contents of the phone's storage drive, wake it from sleep, access network and also identify a person's location using GPS or network-based techniques.

It could also access records of phone calls, including the telephone numbers that were dialled, and it also posted messages on social networks in return for access to lyrics, the privacy group wrote.

Although the software requested the rights to probe this data, it's not yet known if it was actually accessed; fandroids were asked to grant the app the privileges before installing it.

EPIC quoted two Samsunites in its filing.

One user said: “I was so shocked and appalled when I downloaded the app and saw the permissions it wanted that I actually stopped for like six seconds before hitting ‘accept’.”

Another said: “I downloaded it, opened it, noticed the obscene amount of personal data they wanted, closed it again and uninstalled. I'd like that minute and a half of my life back please."

The EPIC alleged that the number of permissions required "verges on parody”.

Jay Z, born Shawn Carter, appears to have taken the criticism on the chin. When quizzed about whether the app was "invasive" in its "surveillance" of fans on Twitter, he replied:

EPIC earlier asked the FTC to examine SnapChat, a handy sexting app that allows horny teens (or anyone else) to send compromising yet self-destructing photographs to each other.

Samsung has not yet replied to calls from El Reg. ®

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