Spotify and privacy: Spotify collects more data than you think


And this is how you can limit it
Spotify and privacy: Spotify collects more data than you think

Did you know that Spotify collects a lot of personal data and knows exactly what you listen to, at what time and what you are doing? You can minimize this as much as possible with the steps in this article.

Spotify and privacy

When you think of privacy, you think of Google and Facebook, which monitor your behavior to advertise. But Spotify also collects a lot of information about your behavior. The company collects more than 100 billion data points per day, gaining insight into what all users are listening to, what they are doing while listening and what mood people are in. All that data is provided by the more than 365 million monthly users, about half of whom are served music with advertisements. Based on this data, appropriate advertising can be shown based on mood, taste and behavior. What can you do about this? Not that much, but fortunately there are some switches you can flip to improve your privacy slightly.

Spotify collects a lot of data

Everything you do with Spotify in the app and the desktop player is recorded: what you search for, which songs you skip and which buttons you press. Spotify knows at what time of day you started listening to a certain song. But it goes a lot further: if you repeatedly listen to a ‘break up’ playlist, Spotify knows that your relationship is in crisis. This data is used to show the correct advertisements if you are a non-paying user. Paying users also provide data to Spotify, for example about trends in music taste and the places where they listen.

Spotify collects data

In 2015, a Spotify executive admitted that an “enormous amount of data is being collected about what people listen to, where and in what context.” This also gives the company insight into what people are doing. Investments in data science convert this into usable information.

How can you better protect your privacy at Spotify?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to listen completely privately with Spotify, without data being collected. The Spotify app for iOS contains virtually no privacy settings.

However, you can make a few adjustments via the Spotify website:

  1. Go to your profile and tap Privacy Settings.
  2. Disable Facebook data sharing. This prevents Spotify from using all kinds of personal data from Facebook.
  3. Turn off Custom Ads.
  4. Go to Edit Profile and see what personal information you’ve shared with Spotify. Does Spotify know your gender, date of birth and the country you live in? Maybe you don’t want that and you feel more comfortable with random information filled in.
  5. Also uncheck Share my registration information with Spotify’s content providers for marketing purposes. Apart from the fact that third parties have nothing to do with your private data, the data can also end up outside the EEA, where privacy is less well regulated.
Facebook data Spotify

You can block cookies in the Spotify app on the desktop. The app warns that it may “negatively impact your Spotify experience,” meaning you’ll see fewer tailored ads.

  1. Open Spotify on Mac.
  2. Click on the downward-pointing arrow at the top right next to your account name.
  3. Go to Settings > Advanced settings.
  4. Under the Privacy heading, turn on the switch to block cookies.
Disable Spotify cookies

If you listen to Spotify via the web, you could use a privacy-friendly browser, such as Brave or Firefox.

Apps with access to your Spotify data

While you’re cleaning up, take a look at which apps and services you’ve given access to your Spotify account. There are probably more than you think. To do this, in the browser version of Spotify, go to Apps and click Remove access for each unwanted app.

Spotify apps: revoke access

Limit what friends can see on Spotify

Another privacy concern is that other users can see what you listen to if you have enabled Spotify’s social features. People who follow you can then view your listening behavior. You prevent this with a Private Session. You have to turn this on again every time you start listening. You can also disable sharing of your listening behavior here.

  1. Open the Spotify app on your iPhone.
  2. Go to Settings > Social.
  3. Activate Private Session to listen anonymously.
  4. Turn off the Listen Activity switch.
  5. Turn off the Recently Played Artists switch.

Please note that this only prevents others from seeing what you are listening to. It does not prevent Spotify from continuing to record your data. What you listen to in a private session can still influence the recommendations you get in Spotify.

In the Spotify app on the desktop, you can also control these settings by clicking next to your account name and going to Settings > Social.

Spotify privacy settings social

Conclusion: can you use Spotify in a privacy-conscious way?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to use Spotify without sharing your personal data with the company. If you don’t want Spotify to know anything about you, you need to close your account. But you can also have a lot of influence on it yourself. When creating an account, you provide your username, telephone number, date of birth, gender and sometimes also your home address and country. If you have a paid account, you also provide your payment method. Whether you fill this in honestly is a personal choice. In fact, Spotify does not need to have all the correct personal information in order to provide you with a music service.

Furthermore, according to the privacy policy, the company can place cookies, store IP addresses, find out which device and browser you use, which operating system you have installed and which other devices are present on your WiFi network. In addition, the app can read movement and direction from the sensors in your smartphone, especially the accelerometer and the gyroscope. If you use Spotify’s voice functions, those voice commands can also be recorded. If you link your Facebook account, Spotify can import your personal information from Facebook.

Spotify and privacy

All of this is intended to improve your listening experience and give you personal recommendations. But it is also used to improve Spotify’s algorithms to play real-time context-based ads. Spotify can recognize 10 activities: relaxing, dinner, gaming, party, travel, cooking, focus, holidays/vacation, study and workout. By listening to podcasts, Spotify can sharpen your interests, for example dogs, education or sports. That is why Spotify is investing heavily in it.

Because you don’t upload or share anything with Spotify, it feels like your privacy is fine. But Spotify still knows exactly what mood you are in and whether you are ready for a big bar of chocolate.

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