Open-Source Audacity audio editor acquisition leads to multiple concerns about user data: Revised Privacy Policy sparks search for alternatives

Audacity Muse Group Open Source Free Audio Editor
Open-Source and free audio editor acquired with the intention of harvesting data? Pic credit: Wesley Fryer/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Audacity, one of the most popular, open-source, and free audio-editors, recently underwent a change of ownership. The new owners, Muse Group, have initiated a string of changes causing concerns about data and user privacy.

It is not clear how someone could have bought an open-source, and free, cross-platform application. However, that’s exactly what happened, and there are growing concerns about new precedents about user data collection, storage, and processing.

Audacity users fight off Telemetry addition but the new Desktop Privacy Notice has several concerning points:

Audacity launched in the year 2000 and has become one of the most popular audio editing tools. The platform was free and open-source, which, coupled with professional-level editing tools, made it immensely popular.

In May this year, Muse Group acquired Audacity. The change of ownership is still confusing as Audacity is an open-source project. However, events that transpired subsequent to the acquisition, clearly hint at the plans of the new owners.

The Muse Group quickly published plans about adding Telemetry to Audacity, on GitHub. Needless to mention, users across the world rallied heavily, and criticized the move, forcing the new owners to scrap the plan.

Although Telemetry might not be a part of Audacity, its Desktop Privacy Notice was updated this month. The note is surprisingly clear about the data collection policies.

“The note lists the data that Audacity is collecting as well as the reason for collecting the data, with whom the data is shared and under which circumstances, how the data is protected, and how it is stored and deleted.”

Muse Group has indicated it “may” collect the following data from Audacity users:

App Analytics and App Improvements:

  • OS version
  • User country based on IP address
  • OS name and version
  • CPU
  • Non-fatal error codes and messages (i.e. project failed to open)
  • Crash reports in Breakpad MiniDump format

For legal enforcement:

  • Data necessary for law enforcement, litigation, and authorities’ requests (if any)

There’s no clear indication about the data Muse Group may provide for “law enforcement, litigation and authorities’ requests”. Some experts suggest the Desktop Privacy Notice could have mentioned a list of information that Audacity collects or may collect for “legal enforcement”.

Muse Group can share user data with Russia and European Union:

Another concerning area of the new Desktop Privacy Notice is “Data storage and transfers of data”. The notice mentions Muse Group will store Audacity data on servers in the European Economic Area. However, the group can share “Personal Data” with the company’s main office in Russia and the group’s external counsel in the United States.

Audacity is a powerful and feature-rich audio editor. Equally important, it is free, open-source, and available as a cross-platform application. The software is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux devices.

From mixing sound for YouTube videos to creating soundtracks or audio samples, and even analyzing audio files, Audacity can do it all. The platform can also convert audio files, rip tracks from audio CDs, and do a lot more with ease.

Given the rising concern about free and open-source software being acquired by a private company, users are now considering migrating to other platforms. Some of the popular alternatives to Audacity include Ocenaudio, DaVinci Resolve, Shotcut, etc.

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