Thanks to Google’s ongoing quest to kill off browser cookies and Apple’s ongoing quest to vanquish its mobile identifiers, folks in the multibillion dollar business of tracking a user’s every move online have been doing their best to well, keep tracking a user’s every move online. While most smaller places in the space are accomplishing this by simply undercutting Google and Apple’s tech, others have started proposing cookie alternatives of their very own.
One of those companies is SXM Media—the megacorp that includes SiriusXM, Pandora, and Stitcher Radio—which announced on Monday that it’s debuting a new kind of “listener identity solution,” meant to target people with ads based on the music they listen to and the podcasts they love. Details on the project are sparse, besides the fact that SXM makes sure to note in its press release that it relies on “consented” user signals.
That said, in the wacky world of platforms, user “consent” typically relies on a user conceding to a convoluted and overly invasive terms of service agreement. This means that what these “consented” signals are are really anyone’s guess.
An executive at the company, Maria Breza, mentioned in an interview about the release that at the very least, it would include the emails people use to sign up for apps like Pandora, along with any identifiers that are baked into the device they’re using to listen to their jams. This ID will ostensibly be used to track your listening behavior across devices before being passed off to advertisers, who will then use those ID’s to target you with ads for... concerts? T-shirts? Bowls of fruit? Only the advertisers know for sure.
It’s worth nothing that SXM hasn’t always been the best when it comes to user data. Pandora, for example, passes data about your age, gender, and zip code to advertisers, while podcasts across Stitcher and Pandora are often run through speech-to-text tools to help advertisers better target you with ads for, again, concerts, t-shirts, or other things you don’t need. Between these moves from SXM, and Spotify’s equally scummy moves with listener data, it looks like one of the next privacy battles is going to all about our ears.