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Business News/ Technology / People can’t stop ‘Spotify snooping’ on friends, exes and crushes
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People can’t stop ‘Spotify snooping’ on friends, exes and crushes

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It’s a sneaky way to check how people are feeling—without having to interact with them

Streaming service Gaana dominated the market with a 30% share, followed by JioSaavn (24%), Wynk Music (15%), Spotify (15%).Premium
Streaming service Gaana dominated the market with a 30% share, followed by JioSaavn (24%), Wynk Music (15%), Spotify (15%).

When we play songs on Spotify to get us through the day, they can be intimate—and sometimes also publicly visible.

Many people have sharing settings enabled on the music-streaming service, making it easy for friends or strangers to find out what they’re listening to, and by extension, what they’re doing or how they’re feeling. A guilty pleasure (“MMMBop," anyone?), your repeat listen (yes, Taylor Swift’s “Midnights") or a playlist name may reveal personal information to those who are snooping.

People who have been “Spotify snooping" have been coming clean on TikTok in recent months. Some users have posted videos detailing how they discovered their crush is dating someone, while others have shared tips on how to do some snooping of your own.

Regina Ticoalu, an 18-year-old college student in Colorado, says she has done some Spotify snooping to form deeper bonds with friends and acquaintances. She also snoops at times to check on people no longer in her life.

When Ms. Ticoalu looked up what her ex-boyfriend was listening to in November, she saw “Glimpse of Us" by Joji, a song about starting to date again after a relationship ended. Because he played the song so soon after their breakup, it led her to believe the two events were related.

“It does lead me to overthink a lot," Ms. Ticoalu says.

Spotify snooping has helped Ms. Ticoalu on the rebound, too. She says she uses it to figure out how to start a conversation with someone she doesn’t know too well—or what to say on a date.

“I can tell a lot about someone just by their music taste," she says.

Following friends

Spotify introduced Friend Activity for its desktop music player in 2015. You can follow people within the streaming service by looking up their usernames, or by connecting your Facebook account to add friends.

The function arrived in an era where many companies were linking with Facebook. Some people turned on the social features and then forgot about them. Others keep them on to make sharing music with family and friends easier.

Friend Activity is off by default. You can navigate to the Social section of settings on desktop or mobile to activate it. The setting—“Share my listening activity" on desktop, “Share what I listen to" on mobile—makes public what songs you listened to, the artist who sang it and when you played it. The Social tab includes other sharing options such as publishing your playlists or showing your recently played artists on your profile.

Once Friend Activity is on, anyone can add you and see what you’ve been listening to. There’s no “friends only" option—it’s all or nothing. You can turn on a private session in settings when you want to keep particular music choices private.

There’s no Friend Activity view on mobile devices, though the music you play on mobile is shared. Spotify is testing some of the sharing features in a Community hub that some users can access. In August 2021, it also introduced Blend, which lets users create shared playlists with other people.

Other streaming services offer different levels of insight into friends’ activity. Apple Music allows you to add friends, and see their playlists and what they’ve been listening to, but there’s no timestamp. Amazon Music users can follow someone if they know that person’s profile URL, but they can only see content that someone has publicly shared.

A musical connection

There are other ways to find out what someone is listening to on Spotify.

One popular method is linking your Spotify account to the social-chat platform Discord. You can share what you’re streaming on your profile and next to your username. Anyone who’s browsing through a public Discord server can see what you’re playing.

Ash LaPoint, a 27-year-old technical-support specialist for live-streaming software company Streamlabs, answers customer queries in a Discord channel. She and her co-workers, who all work remotely, have their Spotify linked so they can see what each other is listening to.

Mostly it’s a conversation starter among colleagues. Sometimes they take screenshots and shame each other, like when a manager is listening to Nicky Minaj’s “Super Freaky Girl" for the hundredth time.

Ms. LaPoint does wonder if anyone she helps during a customer-service session will comment on what she’s playing.

“This person is probably wondering, ‘Who is the person that’s listening to Pussycat Dolls?’" she says. “‘How can you be productive while you listen to that?’"

Not all those who Spotify snoop use the music service.

Andie Newman, a 25-year-old who works at a film school in London, is an Apple Music subscriber. As she scrolls through her Discord servers, she can’t help but check out the Spotify songs her friends, and strangers, are listening to, she says.

She noticed a friend’s new boyfriend was listening to a song she liked. The common ground gave her a way to know him better, she says.

“It’s a weirdly intimate connection to people," Ms. Newman says.

 

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