When does the collection of personal information become too much?

A few weeks ago, my favorite music streaming app, Songza, was bought by Google. Yesterday I had to reinstall the app and noticed that Google was making its presence felt. After signing in to the app with my non-Google email and password I was shown this ominous warning: “By clicking Next you agree to the

Turn back now!

Turn back now!

transfer of your personal information from Songza to Google (so you can log in to your account) and to our new Google Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.” Curious, I followed the “personal information” link to see what it was Songza was sharing/transferring to Google. Google says this “is information which you provide to us which personally identifies you, such as your name, email address or billing information, or other data which can be reasonably linked to such information by Google.”

I don’t know what it is about the wording of this sentence that caught my attention but it certainly stopped me from logging in. Yes, Google knows who I am. I am signed into my Google account when using Chrome on my laptop and I am certainly signed in to my Google account on my Android phone. Google can even track my musical preferences as I have uploaded some of my collection onto Google Music. Google knows where I am with Maps, knows who I know with Contacts and knows where I shop (with all my shopping emails in Gmail.)

But there are still things that Google does not know about me.

It doesn’t know where I eat, as I post my reviews on Yelp. It doesn’t know what movies and TV shows I see, as I watch them through Netflix. It doesn’t know what books I read as I review those on Amazon. It doesn’t know who my business colleagues are as I’m connected to them on LinkedIn and it doesn’t know who many of my acquaintances are, as I’m only friends with them on Facebook. There are other apps and sites I keep separate from my Google account, these are just some examples.

So when Google comes in and said to either accept the transfer of information or stop using Songza, I paused. Songza isn’t just for music. Right up front, as part of the playlist selection process, users “provide at least five data points to the website: day of the week, time of day, location, device type, and climate.” Then there’s the additional information about music tastes and preferences that gets logged about me. Suddenly, I feel like turning on my old kitchen radio. I can choose a station with the genre I want to listen to without anyone knowing that I like 80s music. Oh, wait…

Yes, I realize that Google is here to make money selling my information to advertisers. That’s part of the game. I also realize that building a better and richer personal profile about my tastes and preferences makes my profile more attractive (read: more expensive) to advertisers. Yet it is at this point that I felt Google had crossed the line. I’ll get my music elsewhere, thank you very much.

So long, Songza. It’s been fun.




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