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Pandora, privacy, and you

I use Pandora a lot, because I get introduced to a lot of different artists and bands that I’ve never heard of, but end up liking. Since Pandora removed the 40-hour listening limit for free members, I found myself logging on a lot more. But while it seems like Pandora is just a simple online radio, there’s actually a little bit more to it; it’s collecting some of your information. So privacy is a concern. Here’s how you can protect your information if you think that is necessary.

When you sign up to be a free member, Pandora collects your gender, your age, and your zip code. Only when you decide to pay for Pandora, which offers ad-free radio and higher quality audio, will Pandora take your name. It turns out that Pandora monitors and logs any songs that you play or skip, because they have to pay for every song you listen to. While logging your favorite stations, Pandora tries to personalize it and generates playlists based on your taste.

Pandora collects your information if you click on the advertisements that Pandora puts out or sign up for newsletters. Though Pandora only stores your information—meaning they’ll only share it with partners—Pandora states that it “is not responsible for, and will assume no liability, if a business partner or other entity collects, uses or shares any information about you in violation of its own privacy policy or applicable law.” So you have to be cautious of when to give it out.

While that might seem like the gist of it, there’s more. Many people do not know that Pandora has a Facebook-Twitter-like setup. You have a profile where—instead of friends—you get to follow and be followed by other people. They can follow you if they either know your online screen name, your email, or if you’ve logged in through Facebook.

You can give Pandora permission to import your Facebook information into your Pandora profile. If your profile is public, people can see your picture (if you have one uploaded), what stations you have, what songs you’ve liked, who you’re following, and your followers—which isn’t such a big deal, but for those who are afraid of letting others know what they like, it could be a concern.

When you privatize your Pandora profile, no one can find you—even if they type in your email; you become invisible, but it might not last. When you allow Pandora to access  Facebook, you allow it to pull friends and acquaintances who also use Pandora. Logging lets Pandora know that you are also a Pandora user, and will put you on the list if a friend decides to search for Facebook friends on Pandora. If your profile is private, though, they will not be able to see any of your activities and your stations at all.

To control your privacy settings in Pandora, on the top right corner, click on your email address, go to “Settings,” and then under “Privacy,” you can modify your Pandora privacy and your Facebook privacy.

Though Pandora is jotting down what kind of genre and artists I listen to, I don’t really mind, because I’m getting all of it for free. They get revenues from advertisements and sponsors, and that pretty much relies on us, the listeners. The option to privatize one’s profile from public view already ensures the user’s privacy, but if one really cares a lot about someone else getting a hold of their name and what he listens to, he can always make a new email and Pandora account.


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2 Responses to Pandora, privacy, and you

  1. Pandora Fan November 15, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    Very helpful post. It’s amazing how some websites bury their info making it so much harder to block these settings. The thing about Pandora is that their business model thrives from people’s listening trends, not their demographics. This means they are making a fortune off of selling this information to advertisers.

  2. radioworldpeace November 15, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    i don’t use pandora but i find it interesting how they use radio to market to a specific individual instead of the vauge mass-general audience that FM radio caters to. nice read on privacy.

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