How to Limit Spotify From Tracking You, Because It Knows Too Much

How to Limit Spotify From Tracking You, Because It Knows Too Much


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Most Spotify users are likely aware the streaming service tracks their listening activity, search history, playlists, and the songs they like or skip—that’s all part of helping the algorithm figure out what you like, right? However, some users may be less OK with how much other data Spotify and its partners are logging.

According to Spotify’s privacy policy, the company tracks:

  • Your name
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Street address, country, and other GPS location data
  • Login info
  • Billing info
  • Website cookies
  • IP address
  • Facebook user ID, login information, likes, and other data.
  • Device information like accelerometer or gyroscope data, operating system, model, browser, and even some data from other devices on your wifi network.

This information helps Spotify tailor song and artist recommendations to your tastes and is used to improve the in-app user experience, sure. However, the company also uses it to attract advertising partners, who can create personalized ads based on your information. And that doesn’t even touch on the third-party cross-site trackers that are eagerly eyeing your Spotify activity too.

Treating people and their data like a consumable resource is scummy, but it’s common practice for most companies and websites these days, and the common response from the general public is typically a shrug (never mind that a survey of US adults revealed we place a high value on our personal data). However, it’s still a security risk. As we’ve seen repeatedly over the years, all it takes is one poorly-secured server or an unusually skilled hacker to compromise the personal data that companies like Spotify hold onto.

And to top things off, almost all of your Spotify profile’s information is public by default—so anyone else with a Spotify account can easily look you up unless you go out of your way to change your settings.

Luckily, you can limit some of the data Spotify and connected third-party apps collect, and can review the personal information the app has stored. Spotify doesn’t offer that many data privacy options, and many of them are spread out across its web, desktop, and mobile apps, but we’ll show you where to find them all and which ones you should enable for the most private Spotify listening experience possible. You know, relatively.

How to change your Spotify account’s privacy settings

The web player is where to start if you want to tune up your Spotify privacy. Almost all of Spotify’s data privacy settings are found on there, rather than in the mobile or desktop apps.

We’ll start by cutting down on how much personal data you share with Spotify.

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Screenshot: Brendan Hesse

  1. Log in to Spotify’s web player on desktop.
  2. Click your user icon then go to Account > Edit profile.
  3. Remove or edit any personal info that you’re able to.
  4. Uncheck “Share my registration data with Spotify’s content providers for marketing purposes.”
  5. Click “Save Changes.”

Image for article titled How to Limit Spotify From Tracking You, Because It Knows Too Much

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse

Next, let’s limit how Spotify uses your personal data for advertising.

  1. Go to Account > Privacy settings.
  2. Turn off “Process my personal data for tailored ads.” Note that you’ll still get just as many ads—and Spotify will still track you—but your personal data will no longer be used to deliver you targeted ads.
  3. Turn off “Process my Facebook data. This will stop Spotify from using your Facebook account data to further refine the ads you hear.

Lastly, go to Account > Apps to review all the external apps linked to your Spotify account and see a list of all devices you’re logged in to. Remove any you don’t need or use anymore.

How to review your Spotify account data

You can also see how much of your personal data Spotify has collected. At the bottom of the Privacy Settings page, there’s an option to download your Spotify data for review. While you can’t remove this data from your account, it shows you a selection of personal information, your listening and search history, and other data the company has collected. Click “Request” to begin the process. Note that it can take up to 30 days for Spotify to get your data ready for download.

How to hide public playlists and listening activity on Spotify

Your Spotify playlists and listening activity are public by default, but you can quickly turn them off or even block certain listening activity in Spotify’s web and desktop apps. While this doesn’t affect Spotify’s data tracking, it’s still a good idea to keep some info hidden if you’re trying to make Spotify as private as possible.

How to turn off Spotify listening activity

Desktop

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Screenshot: Brendan Hesse

  1. Click your profile image and go to Settings > Social 
  2. Turn off “Make my new playlists public.”
  3. Turn off “Share my listening activity on Spotify.”

Mobile

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Screenshot: Brendan Hesse

  1. Tap the settings icon in the upper-right of the app.
  2. Scroll down to “Social.”
  3. Disable “Listening Activity.”

How to hide Spotify Playlists

Don’t forget to hide previously created playlists, which are made public by default. This can be done from the desktop, web, and mobile apps.

Mobile

  1. Open the “Your Library” tab.
  2. Select a playlist.
  3. Tap the three-dot icon in the upper-right of the screen.
  4. Select “Make Secret.”

Desktop app and web player

  1. Open a playlist from the library bar on the left.
  2. Click the three-dot icon by the Playlist’s name.
  3. Select “Make Secret.”

How to use Private Listening mode on Spotify

Spotify’s Private Listening mode also hides your listening activity, but you need to enable it manually each time you want to use it.

Mobile

  1. In the app, go to Settings > Social.
  2. Tap “Enable private session.”

Desktop app and web player

There are three ways to enable a Private session on desktop:

  • Click your profile picture then select “Private session.”
  • Or, click the “…” icon in the upper-left and go to File > Private session.
  • Or, go to Settings > Social and toggle “Start a private session to listen anonymously.”

Note that Private sessions only affect what other users see (or don’t see, rather). It doesn’t stop Spotify from tracking your activity—though as Wired points out, Spotify’s Privacy Policy vaguely implies Private Mode “may not influence” your recommendations, so it’s possible some data isn’t tracked while this mode is turned on. It’s better to use the privacy controls outlined in the sections above if you want to change how Spotify collects data.

How to limit third-party cookie tracking in Spotify

Turning on the privacy settings above will help reduce how much data Spotify tracks and uses for advertising and keep some of your Spotify listening history hidden from other users, but you should also take steps to limit how other apps and websites track your Spotify activity.

Image for article titled How to Limit Spotify From Tracking You, Because It Knows Too Much

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse

The desktop app has built-in cookie blocking controls that can do this:

  1. In the desktop app, click your username in the top right corner.
  2. Go to Settings > Show advanced settings. 
  3. Scroll down to “Privacy” and turn on “Block all cookies for this installation of the Spotify desktop app.”
  4. Close and restart the app for the change to take effect.

For iOS and iPad users, you can disable app tracking in your device’s settings. Android users have a similar option, though it’s not as aggressive. And for those listening on the Spotify web player, use browsers with strict privacy controls like Safari, Firefox, or Brave.

The last resort: Delete your Spotify account

Even with all possible privacy settings turned on and Private Listening sessions enabled at all times, Spotify is still tracking your data. If that is absolutely unacceptable to you, the only real option is to delete your account. This will remove all your Spotify data for good—just make sure you download and back up any data you want to import to other services before you go through with it.

  1. Go to the Contact Spotify Support web page and sign in with your Spotify account.
  2. Select the “Account” section.
  3. Click “I want to close my account” from the list of options.
  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “Close Account.”
  5. Follow the on-screen prompts, clicking “Continue” each time to move forward.
  6. After the final confirmation, Spotify will send you an email with the cancellation link. Click the “Close My Account” button to verify you want to delete your account (this link is only active for 24 hours).

To be clear, we’re not advocating everyone go out and delete their Spotify accounts over the company’s privacy policy and advertising practices, but it’s always important to know how—and why—the apps and websites we use are tracking us. As we said at the top, even companies with the best intentions can fumble your data, unwittingly delivering it into the wrong hands.

Even if you’re cool with Spotify tracking you and don’t feel like enabling the options we’ve outlined in this guide, take a moment to tune up your account’s privacy with a strong password and two-factor sign-in, and remove any unnecessary info from your profile. These extra steps will help keep you safe if there’s ever an unexpected security breach.

[Wired]

  





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