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Pandora's new Facebook app – should privacy be an issue?

If you’ve ever wondered what kind of music your Facebook friends listen to on Pandora, the online streaming Internet service now has an app for that. Linking your Pandora account to your Facebook account enables you to survey the channel tastes of your Facebook friends.

After months of “furious activity,” the feature is now ready, Pandora says.  “Now your friends can be a daily source of inspiration for new stations and music discovery,” explains Pandora founder Tim Westergren on his blog. “I’ve been testing out the service while we were developing it and I have to say it really brings a wonderful new human dimension to the listening experience.”

The new app isn’t hard to access (instructions here). In the lower right of Pandora’s homepage you’ll see a box that says “Friends’ Music.” Click “check it out,” and then “Connect with Facebook.”

So I did that. And the next thing I knew, I had a complete list the Pandora channels accessed by my Facebook friends. But you know what? I’m not entirely sure that some of my Facebook buddies want me to know that they have a Lady Gaga channel, or they dig a band named Audioslave, or they listen to Lily Allen’s hit tune “Fuck You.”

Don’t get me wrong. My friends are a pretty cool bunch of people. But do they know I’ve got access to this information now?

I called up my partner (also a Facebook friend) and told her I had taken a look at the Pandora channels she’d accessed. “That’s interesting,” she replied, “since I only went on Pandora once.” So my guess is that Facebook users are automatically opted into this Pandora/Facebook relationship on a default basis. You sign into Friends Music, and you get to see your friends’ music whether they like it or not.

The question then is, how do you opt-out? The friends page says: 

TIP: Facebook features on Pandora are entirely optional. To connect, disconnect or reconnect at any time, click here.

From there you’re given three Facebook check box options: “Always share current song,” “Always share current station,” or “Ask each time.” And you can also disconnect from Facebook, presumably after you’ve signed up with the linking service. But it appears that lots of my friends are automatically opted into the “check-out-your-friends” aspect of this new feature, free of charge, unless they’ve taken the precaution of adjusting their privacy options.

Anyway, sorry to rain on this particular parade. Obviously new music discovery and sharing are a wonderful thing. And I love Pandora dearly. But as I’ve complained before, too many social networking applications automatically opt you into stuff when they shouldn’t. Let’s hear it for new music discovery, when you want your music discovered.

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3 Responses to Pandora's new Facebook app – should privacy be an issue?

  1. Jennifer Waits April 22, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    Thanks so much for alerting people to this. I’m alarmed by these automatic opt-ins too, and as you point out, this means that tons of people unknowingly had their Pandora stations revealed to Facebook friends because of this.

    I agree that discovering music through friends can be a really rich experience, but I think it should be on one’s own terms.

    By the way, it’s not just Pandora that we’re automatically opted-in to on Facebook, there’s a similar feature built in to Yelp and other sites. Here’s an article on how to turn all of this off:

  2. Jimmy April 28, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    What’s the world coming to? So now we can only be friends if we all like the same things? You like dogs, I like cats. IGNORE.

  3. Mike Sabaro December 31, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    What the heck?!? I have been book marking music over the last week thinking that once I login into Pandora on my home PC, I could pull up a list of music that I ‘bookmarked’ and see which ones I had not bought yet. Instead its plastered all over my facebook page. Needless to say, the instant personalization (and victimization) was disabled immediately. So no what?? Where you guys that short sighted that your not allowing your users to pull up this list of book marked music from within your own site?? Another missed opportunity to make $$


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