Playlist preferences identify individuals


According to the researchers, three songs from a playlist are sufficient to identify the individual who chose to listen to the music. Hence, companies such as YouTube and Spotify can accumulate a great deal of information about their users based only on their musical preferences.

The playlist analysis was led by Dr. Ori Leshman of this Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education at Tel Aviv University and Dr. Ron Hirschprung of the Department of Management and Industrial Engineering at Ariel University. The analysis was published in the journal Telematics and Informatics.

The study included about 150 young people (all undergraduate students), in 4 groups of about 35 people each. Participants were requested to identify group members based on just few songs from their favorite playlist. The assortment of the students‘ musical preferences was wide and very diverse, including, for example, both new and old Israeli music (from Sasha Argov into Kaveret, Zohar Argov, Omer Adam and Hanan Ben Ari), classic rock and pop (from the Beatles and Pink Floyd to Beyonce and Ariana Grande), Israeli and international hip hop (from Kendrick Lamar and Eminem to Hadag Nahash and Tuna) and much more. The analysis of the choices was completed based on a mathematical model created by the researchers.

The playlist findings surprised even the researchers. The analysis of this data showed that the group members could recognize the study participants depending on their playlist preference at a very high degree of between 80 and 100%, even though the team members did not know each other well and had no prior knowledge of each other’s musical tastes.

Dr. Leshman and Dr. Hirschprung describe: “Music can become a form of characterization, and even an identifier. It provides commercial companies like Google and Spotify with additional and more in-depth information about us as users of these platforms. In the digital world we live in today, these findings have far-reaching implications on privacy violations, especially since information about people can be inferred from a completely unexpected source, which is therefore lacking in protection against such violations. Visiting YouTube is perceived by the ordinary person as an innocuous act, but this study shows that it can reveal a lot about that person. On the other hand, this knowledge can be used as a bridge between people and perhaps in the future lead to the creation of new diagnostic methods and fascinating intervention programs that will make use of people’s favorite music.” 

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Categories: Entertainment Life