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Privacy group: Why does Jay-Z's app check who you call?

July 16, 2013 at 11:58 AM ET

BROOKLYN, NY - JULY 03:  JAY Z attends JAY Z and Samsung Mobile's celebration of the Magna Carta Holy Grail album, available now through a customized ...
Larry Busacca / Getty Images
Jay-Z attends a celebration of the "Magna Carta ... Holy Grail" album.

By downloading an app made available thanks to a partnership between Samsung and Jay-Z, Galaxy smartphone owners received free copies of the musician's latest album, "Magna Carta ... Holy Grail," three days before its official release. Now, a privacy group says that in order to claim this gift, folks were required to surrender too much information.

The complaint to the FTC, filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), states that the mobile app "collects massive amounts of personal information from users, including location data and data pulled from other accounts and other apps on the users phones." Additionally, EPIC's summary of the complaint adds, the app "also includes hidden spam techniques that force users to promote the album."

Among other things, installation of the app requires users to allow the app to access their location, see who they're calling, find email addresses and social media accounts connected to their phones, and more. That's a lot of info for an app — which has no purpose once a user downloads "Magna Carta ... Holy Grail" — to grab, EPIC says. On top of that, the organization calls attention to how the app forces users to log in with Facebook or Twitter accounts to download it in the first place (and requires social media posts in order to "unlock" song lyrics).

"We are aware of the complaint filed with the FTC, and believe it is baseless," a statement provided by Samsung, who created the app in partnership with Jay-Z, explains. "Samsung takes customer privacy and the protection of personal information very seriously. Any information obtained through the application download process was purely for customer verification purposes, app functionality purposes, and for marketing communications, but only if the customer requests to receive those marketing communications. Our permissions are in line with other apps’ standard permissions. Samsung is in no way inappropriately using or selling any information obtained from users through the download process."

In plain terms? Samsung's basically shouting "But everyone else is doing it!" while EPIC wags its finger and says that the company's got 99 problems ... and the FTC could be one.

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