Spotify Streaming Service Offers Poor Privacy Protection [Updated]

Popular music streaming service Spotify has raised privacy concerns as multiple security researchers have expressed concerns. Back in July, USA Today reported that your activity on Spotify is public and “can be used against you.” Even if you haven’t noticed, Spotify shares your listening activity and history with anyone who has a profile.


Spotify Offers Little Privacy Protection

If someone wants to use Spotify with privacy from a single user, unfortunately there isn’t much they can do. This is a clear privacy issue, because if people want to share their activity with their friends, but not with a certain user, they may opt to keep their browsing public to everyone rather than cutting it off completely. There is not choice and control over who can see a user’s profile. BuzzFeed News reported that “a harasser could, say create a public playlist with a threatening title for their victim to see.”

There have been many cases of harassment on Spotify. Because the platform doesn’t allow blocking a single user, people are left vulnerable to people monitoring their listening and then using that information to intimidate them.

Sanctuary for Families, which provides support to domestic violence survivors says letting “someone invade a private space, and continue a pattern of vontrol and power without consent, is a continuation of abuse.”

Spotify makes listening to music a more social behavior by connecting your listening to your friends and sharing your friends’ listening history. This is fun and convenient until someone uses the social aspects to harass or intimidate you.

While there are clearly issues with Spotify’s options for user privacy, it has taken steps to fix some issues. In 2017 Spotify disabled a messaging feature in 2017 which allowed anyone to send messages to other Spotify users.

Spotify Doesn’t Offer a Block Feature

A number of online publications share stories of Spotify users who have been harassed on the platform. User requests for block features go all the way back to 2012. However, Spotify has yet to address adding the feature to its service. This decision is at odds with its decision in May 2018 to remove artists music from its platform who had been accused of abuse.

Spotify Privacy Issues

Exodus Privacy’s Analysis of Spotify Trackers & Permissions

Exodus Privacy is a service that analyzes Android applications for privacy. According to the service, Spotify uses 9 trackers and requires 28 permissions. Each permission is a way Spotify collects or monitors your use.

While it makes sense for Spotify to collect data about your listening habits to recommend new music, monitoring location and accessing your contacts doesn’t seem necessary.

How to Use Spotify Anonymously

This question on Spotify’s community help site addresses the question of whether it’s possible to make your account fully private. According to the answers, there is no way to do so. If you use Spotify, anyone can view your profile.

One respondent said, “We should have the option to report and/or ban certain followers without completely shutting down sharing.”

Spotify offers a few key features which can help you use Spotify with privacy and anonymity.

Spotify Private Session

  • Use a “Private Session”. This mode lets you listen without sharing with anyone. The one problem with this mode is that you have to enable it every time you use Spotify.
  • Hide your Spotify activity: Go to settings and then under Social, you can turn off the sharing functions. You can keep Spotify from showing your listening history and your top artists in your profile. Another step you can take is turn off the default setting that sets new playlists to public.

Similar practices for using the broader internet privately apply to Spotify.

  • Create a private account, not linked to your Gmail or Facebook account. Use a discreet username that doesn’t include your real name or another unique identifier.

Manage App Access to your Spotify Account

If you’ve never checked which apps have access to your Spotify account, you should verify that only apps that need access have it. You may notice some apps that access your Spotify information for no reason, or that you no longer use. Clearing these out can prevent third-parties from leaking your listening behavior or other data.

How To Change Your Username on Spotify

Unfortunately, Spotify doesn’t allow people to change their usernames. This is a problem if your username contains information, like your name, that you’d rather keep private. Spotify explains that if you can’t remember your username or don’t like it you can create a new account. But if you’ve been using a student discount, you can’t apply this to your new account for 12 months.

Alternatives to Changing Your Spotify Username

  • Create a New Account: Since Spotify doesn’t let you change your username, you can create a new account if your username is an issue. Just cancel your current account and start a new one.

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