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Guardian: Do Netflix, Spotify and Facebook know me as well as they think?

Posted by Soledad Vega on Mon, 08/24/2015 - 13:10

Algorithms shape our online lives. The websites we visit guess what you want to listen to next, where your next appointment is, what to buy your friend for Christmas...Helpful or creepy?

Article by Alexis Petridis, Jess Cartner-Morley, Stuart Heritage and Archie Bland for The Guardian

‘Spotify seems to think I want to hear a 1972 live album by Yes’

Alexis Petridis

There are many things I love about Spotify – its convenience, the way it allows me to spy on what my friends are listening to or check their “best of the year so far” playlists for music I might have missed – but the Discover feature is not one of them. I can’t help finding it a bit creepy, partly because it just is – a musical recommendation from a friend whose taste you trust is patently not the same thing as a computer trying to predict what you’re going to do next – and partly because I read enough science fiction as a kid to know that this kind of thing is invariably the thin end of the wedge. One minute the computer is all nicey-nicey and “Can I help you with that?” and “You just listened to Fleet Foxes, perhaps you’d like to hear the new Sufjan Stevens album?” then the next thing you know, humanity has been condemned to live in vast subterranean slave camps and forced to mine uranium for our new robot overlords.And besides, it doesn’t work – at least, not for me. This morning, its lists of recommendations and new releases consist of music I’ve either already heard and don’t like, or stuff I’ve no intention of listening to; it seems to think I want to hear a collection of 1972 live recordings by Yes, which I can assure you is not the case. I like to think this is because my music taste is so brilliantly eclectic that no program can hope to work it out, but in reality it’s probably got more to do with two other factors.

Firstly, when I’m writing, I use Spotify as a research tool, listening to all sorts of things I wouldn’t ordinarily listen to. Spotify is currently resolute in the belief that I want to hear novelty ska tracks, because I recently listened to 80s novelty ska band Bad Manners in order to make a joke involving Bad Manners in something I was writing.

- Read more at The Guardian