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ΑρχικήEnglish EditionSpotify Wrapped; Users’ data wrapped in a present

Spotify Wrapped; Users’ data wrapped in a present

By Erika Koutroumpa,

Spotify wrapped is one of the most popular annual online events. The highly expected novelty introduced by the streaming service Spotify comprises a “year in review” for the app’s users, displaying each year’s top artists and tracks, as well as a personality matching the listener’s music profile. But how does the app manage to create this summary and  

Both for Spotify wrapped and for the user’s everyday listening, the application utilizes what is called a personalization algorithm. The app collects user data, more specifically the songs that have been listened to for more than 30 seconds, and then the top tracks are calculated based on the times and how frequently they have been streamed. Likewise, the top artists are found by measuring the total hours their songs have been played.  By collecting consumer behaviour data, they use the new data sets to offer a customized experience, making educated guesses on what kind of content the user would enjoy. The algorithm creates messages, promotions and user-based advertisements, thus creating a more customized and improved user experience. The more data is collected by an individual, the more accurate the results of the algorithm and the key to personalization algorithms is not the demographic or location, but the behavioural data and the scope that it covers. In 2016, the average Spotify listener used the app for approximately 5.2 hours a day, and with the app tracking all kinds of information, even the brand of the headphones used, one would correctly assume that we are talking about vast amounts of available data.  

Spotify is not the only company taking advantage of personalization algorithms, and the growing reliance on data tracking in advertising has sparked worries among multiple consumers. This begs the question- is this type of data handling on Spotify’s behalf legal? Spotify Wrapped, whether the user has opted to partake in the trend or not, is perfectly legal. This type of data handling is part of the terms and regulations of the app, which many users neglect to read. When a user accepts the terms and conditions of an app or website, they consent to the use of first-party data, which is accumulated and connected to the email address linked to the account. Spotify’s terms and conditions are following the European Union regulations regarding data protection, as well as the California Consumer Privacy Act, which limits the personal information that can be sold by Spotify to third parties, even giving the option for users to opt out of targeted advertising. 

Image source: Spotify. CREDIT: Alamy

According to research by Kozverva et al. with subjects from the UK, USA and Germany, people share concerns over data privacy and personalized digital services and the use of private data for personalization. It seems that over half the subjects were accepting of the personalization features in websites, but not of the data collection for this to take place. Although personalized commercial content is accepted, subjects objected to the use of sensitive information currently used for personalization algorithms. Lastly, based on the research’s findings, privacy concerns were observed across all sides of the political spectrum, while subjects from the USA displayed higher acceptability percentages than those from Europe. 

Spotify, just like other companies of its kind has adopted what can be referred to as a “surveillance capitalist business model”, using data for user-targeted product advertisement. However, perhaps the reason for its success is the transparency when it comes to data handling, which is akin to nothing else in its industry. It has managed to take all the collected data, present them in an aesthetically pleasing way and turn it into a powerful marketing tool. From its beginnings in 2015, Spotify has managed to increase its subscribers from 22 million to 165 million in 2021, with the app reaching 60 million shares of Wrapped statistics across social media for the year 2021 alone.  

To conclude, Spotify Wrapped is possible due to the utilization of personalization algorithms and extensive user data tracking over the years. Collecting user data, including potentially sensitive information such as location and browser history, personalization algorithms have an influence on privacy and are a subject of controversy. One of the reasons behind Spotify Wrapped’s success is the transparency over data handling and it can be a leading example for data usage practices for other tech companies. 

  • “Spotify Wrapped or the best marketing campaign of our decade”, Maria Lucia Villegas, 1 December 2021, Axiacore blog. Available here
  • “2022 Wrapped: Spotify is legally collecting your personal data”, Hanna Daniels, 1 December 2022, 21bis. Available here  
  • “How Spotify Wrapped Does Data Collection Without Being Creepy”, Tech News Briefing, 6 December 2022, Wall Street Journal Podcasts. Available here
  • Kozyreva, A., Lorenz-Spreen, P., Hertwig, R. et al.Public attitudes towards algorithmic personalization and use of personal data online: evidence from Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Humanit Soc Sci Commun8, 117 (2021)



Erika Koutroumpa
Erika Koutroumpa
She hails from Athens and is a second-year dentistry student at European University Cyprus. Despite studying for a medical subspecialty, her interests include law, economics and politics. During her high school years, she participated in model United Nations conferences, something which contributed to her love of writing and communication of ideas. She likes reading, music and Art.