I use Apple Music as my streaming music service but I had heard a lot of good things about Spotify so I decided I’d give them a try. I saw that they had a deal where you could get the first three months of the service for just 99 cents, so I thought: Oh, what a great time to try it.
I signed up for Spotify, put the app on my phone and began using it. It seemed to have pretty much the same 40 million or so songs Apple Music has and, in some ways, it seemed better than Apple Music. For instance, unlike Apple Music, Spotify is very good at recommending songs I might like.
So I put the app on my iPad and MacBook as well, and, for several weeks I made playlists and titled them, and listened to the songs I liked and, every day, I was jamming out to the service. I’d play all my favorite songs while cleaning the house or shooting basketball, mark which songs were my favorite ones and note which songs I liked the most. I was really enjoying Spotify and I would basically listen to it all the time and sing along.
Since I liked the app, after several weeks of using it, I decided to learn more about the features. I was on the iPhone browsing through the app’s settings to see if I could adjust the streaming quality of the music and I saw a tab buried in the settings that said “Social.”
Interested in what that could be, I hit that button and I saw what it was and I instantly felt sick to my stomach. I mean, I was horrified at what I saw. The app, without ever asking me, was sharing virtually everything I did online. I saw a list of people – some I knew, some I didn’t – who were following me, though, like I said, I never knew it. Anyone who wanted to could see all my playlists and what I titled them and see all the songs I was listening to at any time. All my information was being broadcast out to the web for anyone who wanted to look.
The “Publish My Activity” button in settings was turned on by default and a bright green light indicated that was the case. Without my knowing it or ever giving approval, the app had been pumping my information out to the world. I thought the whole time I was using Spotify that I was jamming out to music in my own private Idaho when really I was doing so publicly in all 50 states as well as worldwide. I quickly turned the sharing functions off but by then it was too late.
Now, the reason I was upset was because of the rest of the story. It was not that I was embarrassed to have the whole world see what music I listen to – why in the world would I care – but what concerned me is that, several weeks ago, right after I signed up for Spotify, my 12-year-old niece was telling me how she really wanted an iPhone and I felt bad for her, so I handed her my iPhone and told her she could use mine for a few weeks. When I did, I told her Spotify was on there and the account was set up if she wanted to use it. I cleared all my Spotify songs off the phone and gave it to her. So the songs people have been seeing streaming on my Spotify account in recent weeks have been hers, not mine. And I felt bad that I had inadvertently helped Spotify violate her privacy and had let the whole world know that she likes, for instance, Hannah Montana.
I mean she apparently loves Hanna Montana. She listens to Hanna Montana all the time. Personally, I don’t see what she sees in her. (For some reason I’m not sure of, Hannah Montana reminds me a little bit of Miley Cyrus, but I really don’t know why that is since the two clearly have nothing in common.)
My niece also apparently really likes K-pop a lot too. I have no idea what she sees in that “music,” if you can even call it that.
And sadly, from what I can tell, she enjoys virtually the whole Barry Manilow catalog.
So when I found out that my little niece was inadvertently putting her music tastes and listening history out there for everyone to see, as you can imagine, I was quite embarrassed for her. If I’d known Spotify was broadcasting everything she listened to I never would have loaned her my phone in the first place.
Now, if you’re wondering about my own musical tastes, whenever I listen to music, I listen to the kind of quality, cutting-edge music you might expect from a well educated, trendy, modern guy like me with highly refined tastes: You know, Drake, The Weekend, Twenty-One Pilots, etc., with a lot of classical mixed in – a good deal of Stravinsky, Schubert and Haydn, and a lot of Chopin piano concertos. That sort of thing.
If you are a Spotify public relations person and you are reading this, you do not need to send me a response. I already know exactly what you are going to say before you say it, so just save yourself the trouble. If you are one of the Spotify people and you don’t believe that I know exactly what you are going to say, let me show you the email you are planning to write …
Dear Mr. Yost,
We were sorry to read that you were dissatisfied with the public sharing functions in Spotify that delight many of our users. You stated in your piece that at no point were you made aware that Spotify was sharing your information and that you did not agree to having your listening history, playlists and listening habits shared online with others.
This assertion does not seem to be borne out by our records. All of our sharing functions are stated very clearly in our document “Spotify Terms and Conditions” (copy attached). If you look on page 232, subsection A-12, footnote 3c, sub-footnote 144r all of our sharing practices are explicitly stated. Our records indicate that on Sept. 2, 2018 you informed us that you had read and agreed to those terms when opening the account. In those Terms and Conditions, it states quite in no uncertain terms that users of the Spotify service will have their information shared.
Though you read and agreed to those terms of service, somehow you maintain you were unaware that Spotify shares all of your activity when using the app. It is hard for us to imagine that you or any other Spotify user would activate Spotify and agree to abide by its terms without thoroughly reading and reviewing each aspect of said agreement. Frankly, it sounds quite unbelievable that, in this day and age when the internet privacy that we here at Spotify value so highly is under constant attack, a Spotify user would not read those the Terms of Service several times before signing. Furthermore …
Hey, Spotify people, isn’t that eerily close to that email you were getting ready to send me. Isn’t it?
So, save it. Keep your letter; I’m going back to Apple Music.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just noticed there’s a newly released rendition of the Brahms concerto performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra that I need to listen to.