In response to widespread criticisms that it breached user privacy, QuickTime rival, Real Networks, has apologized to users and issued a patch that will prevent its RealJukebox software from surreptitiously monitoring user behaviour. The company also promised to revamp its privacy policy.

The new software patch will also prevent such data from being sent to RealNetworks, or other third parties. The move came after reports revealed that personal information about users of the company's RealJukebox, was being sent to RealNetworks without users' knowledge or consent.

RealJukebox is a widely used software application, that lets users download compressed music files onto their PCs, and then listen to them either on the PC or via a portable-digital music-player.

RealNetworks claimed it was only collecting "aggregate" statistics on how RealJukebox is used, rather than gathering information on individual users.

"We made a mistake in not being clear enough to our users about what kinds of data was being generated and transmitted by the use of RealJukebox. We respect and value the privacy of our users, and we deeply apologize for doing anything that suggests otherwise," said Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks, in the statement.

The company has nonetheless stopped collecting data until after it develops a way to get users consent, and makes privacy enhancements to its software, the statement said. It has also stopped asking users to provide their email address and name when they download its software.

RealNetworks said that it has also begun an immediate review of its privacy and data collection practices.