All the Ways Spotify Tracks You—and How to Stop It


The greatest advertising behemoths on the internet are Facebook and Google. Spotify, on the other hand, aspires to be as big as them. And it has all of the information it requires to do so.

Hundreds of millions of users use Spotify every day on their phones, tablets, and computers, with the majority of them keeping logged in as they switch devices. We all input additional information into Spotify’s massive data machine with each tune played, playlist produced, and podcast listened to. Each day, around 100 billion data points are generated. 

Spotify gains a little more insight into our lives with each one. According to Bryan Barletta, author of Sounds Profitable, a newsletter about audio & podcast advertising, Spotify does have a ridiculous amount of information about us. They’ve always recognized that what we hear, how we listen to it, and also the activities we engage in while listening to it are among the most personal aspects of our lives. In terms of audio, they’re doing some amazing stuff.

Spotify recognizes the value of this information and uses it to help it sell advertising. According to Spotify’s advertising materials, such real-time, personalized analytics go beyond demographics & device IDs to indicate our audience’s moods, mindsets, tastes, and habits. 165 millions of Spotify’s 365 million monthly users have chosen not to listen to advertisements. The remaining 200 million people put up with them. Thus, how much information does Spotify have, and how can you minimize its data collection?

What information does Spotify have about you?

Spotify tracks everything you do on the online player, desktop, and mobile apps. Each tap, song playback, playlist playback, search, shuffle, and pause is recorded. Spotify sees you started listening to Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” at 23:03, paused for one minute, then searched for “break up” & listened to the full “ANGRY BREAKUP PLAYLIST” without pausing for four hours and 52 minutes.

Spotify has access to all of this behavioural data, which can be extremely revealing. When Spotify had only 15 million paying customers in 2015, one CEO claimed that the company collected an enormous quantity of data about what people are listening to, where they are listening to it, or in what context they are listening to it. This gives us a lot of insight into what these folks are up to.

Your music reflects how you’re feeling, who you’re with, and what you’re doing. Spotify has extensively invested in data science to take advantage of this, and it has even exploited people’s listening habits inside its advertising. 

Companies who wish to target customers with attention-grabbing adverts might benefit from this granularity. Spotify generates “inferences” depending on your actions that are designed to reflect your interests and preferences. What’s fascinating is that the data from paid users, who aren’t listening to podcasts and may never hear a Spotify ad, is used to power that reasoning engine. They’re in charge of the situation.

But it isn’t the only information Spotify collects. If you truly want to know what information Spotify has on you, you should read its 4,500-word privacy policy. According to Pat Walshe, data protection and privacy specialist who has studied Spotify’s data use, they believe they can use more better language. They could be more concise and set things out more clearly. 

The rest of the data Spotify knows on you comes primarily from the information you provide when you create an account. Your username, email, phone number, date of birth, gender, street address, and country can all be provided. If you pay, you’ll have to provide your billing information as well. According to the company’s privacy policy, it can obtain cookie data, IP addresses, device type, browser type, operating system, plus information about some devices on your Wi-Fi network.

What can you do to stop it?

One may limit how Spotify uses and gathers your data by taking a few steps, but there aren’t many. We think they could do a lot better in some areas, according to Walshe. More information about how Spotify utilizes data may be implemented, as well as reminders that “nudge” users to consider their privacy options. Spotify, for example, may include privacy inspections where users may review their settings.

However, what options do you have at this point? Listening in a Private Session is something to think about. Those who’ve been following you can see everything you listen to on Spotify by default. One option to avoid this is to use Spotify’s private listening mode, which must be enabled every time you use the service. Go to Home, Settings, scroll down to Social, then toggle the Private session toggle on your tablet or phone. While on a  desktop, it’s a little easier: pick Private session from the drop-down menu on the top right corner.

While this mode prevents individuals who are following you from seeing what you’re listening to, it doesn’t prevent Spotify from logging that information. Spotify claims that what you listen to in a private session “may not influence” its music selections. Walshe wonders why all Spotify sessions aren’t automatically made private. According to him, privacy should be the default setting. But no response from Spotify was made.

Although it is hidden inside the numerous menus of Spotify’s desktop app, it offers one major privacy setting. In the upper right corner of the app, click your login, then Settings, scroll down to Show advanced settings, then click again. Here, you could start blocking “all cookies for this Spotify desktop app installation.” One may also either choose new playlists that are publicly disclosed if you wish to share your listening activity on Spotify and adjust notification settings in the desktop app’s settings. Individual playlists could also be made private or hidden by going to them and selecting the options to remove them from your profile.

The core of Spotify’s privacy options is accessed via your Account page on the web. You could disable highly targeted advertising here. Change the setting for Tailored adverts under Account, Privacy settings. When you opt-out, adverts depending on your Spotify registration information or real-time usage of Spotify will be shown to you, but they’ll be less targeted to you, according to Spotify’s settings. However, the number of advertisements will remain constant.

And while you’re at, turn off Facebook data, which will prevent Spotify to use any shared data via Facebook except login information. You may also download several of your Spotify data, such as search history, playlists, streaming history, voice commands, and what Spotify thinks you’re interested in, from the same website.

You can also examine which applications have access to your Spotify account and deactivate those that don’t require it through Spotify’s site settings. For example, you might need to unplug a Spotify-compatible Alexa device. Spotify’s Ad-Generator feature can also be disabled. 

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