Spotify and Privacy - dummies

By Kim Gilmour

Privacy is a hot topic for Internet users everywhere who are concerned about revealing too much about their online habits. So, it’s important to know what Spotify can discover about your listening habits and how this information could be used. Please refer to Spotify’s privacy policy for the latest information. You can find the link to this policy on every page of the Spotify website.


Here is a list of why Spotify says it needs your data and how it uses that data:

  • Make sure artists get paid. The most obvious and important reason of all is that Spotify needs to record what people are playing to ensure that record labels, publishers, and artists are paid the right amount for the amount of listens, or streams, they’ve received. Also, the agreements vary by region, so it needs to know from which part of the world you’re listening.

  • Keep the service afloat. Spotify records listening data for technical reasons, too — for example, it needs to recognize when its systems need to scale up to handle extra traffic (like when it launched in the U.S.) or down.

    And to make sure it delivers tracks to you smoothly, it needs to know how likely it is for people to listen to music passively or jump around from track to track, which could put extra strain on its database.

  • Help you discover new music. Spotify logs data to help enhance its service: It knows what music people are into and collates all this data in order to make music recommendations to you via its radio features.

    In the future, it could also use this information to provide a more personal experience on the site — sites such as Amazon are famous for giving New for You product recommendations, so Spotify may expand in this area later down the line by recommending new tracks for you.

  • Conduct market analysis. The Privacy Policy says that the company uses certain information (which doesn’t identify you personally) to share with its business partners. This information includes search terms, the songs you play, playlists you create, and so on. Local files aren’t exempt from this data collection (iTunes does the same thing).

    Spotify elaborates on this policy in its FAQ: “We collect data on the files you import and play for top list purposes, statistics and to link tracks to our database for better sharing. As we state in our privacy policy, we won’t share an individual’s information regarding imported files to third parties.”

  • Targeted advertising. For those users on free plans, Spotify can also target the right kind of advertisements to people who listen to certain genres of music. Advertisers know if and when you click an ad to visit their website and what kinds of people are responding to them.

  • Use Spotify Social. Spotify has a deep association with Facebook, thanks to Spotify Social — this feature lets you check out what your friends are listening to and what playlists they’ve created or subscribed to. When you connect your Spotify profile to Facebook, any friends who’ve done the same appear in a People list or sidebar in the Spotify window. Spotify also stores your Facebook username.

    Your listening trends could be made public if you’ve set your Spotify profile to reveal the top tracks you’ve been listening to. And playlists you create are automatically published unless you turn the sharing function off — Spotify wants you to keep this stuff public, to get you sharing music and giving your musical experience a good airing. But you can hide away from the world, if you want.