All the ways Spotify tracks you – and how to stop it


Facebook and Google the biggest websites are for advertising. But Spotify has ambitions to their rival. And he has all the data he needs to do that.

Hundreds of millions of people use Spotify on their phones, tablets and desktops every day – most often staying logged in when switching from one device to another. With each song played, a playlist created, and a podcast listened to, we all enter more information into Spotify’s big data machine. More than 100 billion data points are created every day.

Each one gives Spotify a little more information about our lives. “Spotify has an insane amount of information about us,” says Bryan Barletta, author of Sounds Profitable, a newsletter advertising audio and podcasts. “We’ve always known that what you listen to, how you listen and the activities you do around it are listening to some of the most intimate things we do. They do some really smart things in sound. ”

Spotify knows the value of this information and uses it to drive the advertising it sells. “These real-time personal insights go beyond just demographics and device identifiers to reveal the moods, thoughts, tastes, and behaviors of our audiences,” Spotify said. say. Of the 365 million Spotify users per month, 165 million subscribed to not listen to ads. The other 200 million suffered. So how much does Spotify really know and how can you limit data collection?

What Spotify knows about you

Keep track of everything you do in the Spotify web player, desktop and mobile apps. Each touch, song start, playlist play, search, shuffle, and pause are recorded. Spotify knows you started playing Lizz’s song “Truth Hurts” at 11:03 p.m., listened to it for a minute, then asked for a “break” and listened for a full four hours and 52 minutes of “ANGRY INTERRUPTION” without any pauses.

All of this behavioral data can be dug up by Spotify – and it can be deeply revealing. Back in 2015, when Spotify had only 15 million subscribers, one CEO he said it collects “a huge amount of data about what people are listening to, where and in what context. It really gives us an insight into what these people are doing. ”

The music you listen to reflects how you feel, who you are with and what you do. To take advantage of this, Spotify has invested heavily in data science and has even used people’s listening habits in its advertising. “Dear person in the Theater District who has listened to the Hamilton Soundtrack 5,376 times this year, can you get us tickets?” read one ad from 2017.

This detail can be lucrative for companies looking to target people with attention-grabbing ads. Based on your behavior, Spotify comes to “conclusions” that aim to reflect your interests and preferences. “What’s interesting is that the data of paid users, who don’t listen to podcasts, may never hear an ad on Spotify, but they trigger that logical mechanism,” Barletta says. “They’re a control group.”

But that’s not the only data Spotify gets. If you really want to know what Spotify knows about you, you have to read it privacy policy, which has 4,500 words. “I think they can use much clearer language,” said Pat Walshe, a data protection and privacy consultant researched the use of Spotify data. “They can be more concise, they can bring it out better.”

In general, the rest of the information that Spotify has about you is the information you give them when creating an account. You can tell him your username, email, phone number, date of birth, gender, address and country. If you pay, you will also give him your billing information. The company’s privacy policy also says it can get information about cookies, IP addresses, the type of device you use, the type of browser, the operating system, and information about some devices on your Wi-Fi network.

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