Spotify Is Now Tracking Your ‘Online Activity’ Even When You’re Not Using Spotify

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From Spotify’s updated Terms & Conditions (effective August 19th), which you probably didn’t read

I. You’re now being tracked even when you’re not on Spotify, often through Spotify ‘business partners’.

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II. In addition, Spotify is now even tracking your friends’ profiles.

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III. Under the new terms, Spotify is not obligated to follow the privacy laws of your country.

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IV. If your data does happen to be breached, that’s your problem.

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Nearly 400 million people use Spotify to listen to their favorite music and podcasts. Those people have Spotify installed on numerous devices, each logged in to their accounts. Every time you listen to music, create a new playlist, or search for a podcast – Spotify is tracking you.

“Spotify has a crazy amount of data about us,” Says Bryan Barletta, author of Sounds Profitable, a newsletter about audio and podcast advertising. Every single thing you do in Spotify’s web player and its apps is tracked. Every tap, song start, playlist listen, shuffle, pause, or skipped song is noted.

Spotify knows when you go for your daily run because you tap into your ‘Endurance Playlist’ every morning around 6:30 am. The music streaming giant also knows when you’re having your morning coffee as your phone connects to the Starbucks WiFi down the street, and you pause “Eye of the Tiger” to give the barista your order.

Spotify is even cheeky about its data harvesting in its advertising. “Dear person in the Theater District who listened to the Hamilton soundtrack 5,367 times this year – can you get us tickets?” asks one Spotify ad from 2017. That type of granularity gives advertisers who want to reach Spotify’s 200 million free members very valuable insight.

How Spotify Collects Data

The very act of having Spotify installed on your phone and logged in is enough to generate tons of data points to help Spotify in its tracking of your life. When you sign up you create a username and share your email, phone number, date of birth, gender, street address, and country. If you pay for Spotify Premium, you also share your credit card information.

Spotify’s own privacy policy says it collects cookie data, IP addresses, the type of device you use, your browser type, OS type, and information about other devices on your WiFi network. (It knows if you have Sonos speakers, even if you’ve never connected Spotify to them, for example.) Spotify also collects motion-generated sensor data and recordings of you saying ‘Hey Spotify‘ as a voice command.

But Spotify can get extra information from third-party companies and services. Yep, that’s outlined in the privacy policy above (which you didn’t read). If you sign-in with Facebook, it can import your information from there. The goal is to tailor ads to your mood, so you’re more receptive to advertising based on what you’re doing.

Can You Stop Spotify from Tracking You?

Did you know there’s a way to listen to Spotify without broadcasting it to all of your followers? You can start a private listening session, but it must be done each time you open the app. You can turn on private listening on Spotify by tapping Home, Settings, scroll to Social, and toggle ‘Private Session.’

This mode stops people who follow you from seeing what you’re listening to, but it doesn’t stop Spotify from collecting data about your listening habits.

11 Responses

  1. FarePlay

    Of course Spotify is not alone in this and the data scrubbed from their 75 million subscribers certainly plays into their revenue stream.

    My prediction. Spotify will morph into another business migrating their subscribers into another service which will devalue music further or keep it pegged right where it is. Music’s the invitation, not the dance.

  2. DavidB

    Wow. Now we know why they’ve got someone from Google on their Board!

  3. wallow-T

    I forget who said that the only business model on the Internet which has ever made a profit was the violation of privacy.

  4. Ariel

    Oh, like Facebook, Google, and dozens of other tracks everyone normally freights around?

    Not saying it’s a good thing Spotify does it, but context

  5. Versus

    So how to circumvent this? Which cookies to delete? Periodically delete history from web browsers?

  6. Anonymous

    Silicon Valley’s business model is advertising.

    That’s it.

    There’s nothing else. How innovative…

  7. Networked-Hell

    Why am i not surprised ? Spotify wants to out-Google Google…. They come from the same line of thinking : content creators are just maggots that should be used to feed the Machine.
    Warts and all, Apple looks like a saint compared to these folks.

  8. PiratesWinLOL

    Who would anyone be surprised? Everyone is getting tracked all over the place all the time, by a million different companies. That is just how it is, so deal with it.

    If you want to be anonymous for whatever reason, then use tails as an OS and the TOR browser + a VPN. Remember also to turn noscript on and never download anything. Then you are at least safe from most of the tracking. Otherwise, just forget it.

  9. Rick

    I worked with Ken Parks at Qtrax and have a lot of respect for him. One of the best and brightest, I’d like to think his Spotify departure was at least in part fuelled by his reaction to this deperate invasion of privacy.

  10. Willis

    So they have become Facebook and every other social network. Big deal.