Pandora is spying on 70 million users & giving your private info. to advertising companies


Pandora recently adopted its own cookie replacement, and it has been pitching its data to ad exchanges for the past few weeks, according to AdAge.

When a user registers for a Pandora account, the provides his or her age, gender, and zip code. The Internet radio company plans to go through its data and develop demographics it believes advertisers will find more attractive than the imperfect browsing habits collected by cookies.  

Pandora has 70 million active users, which places it far ahead of rookie competitor iTunesRadio.

Its first two segments are Hispanic listeners and Spanish-speaking listeners, the latter non-ethnicity specific. Pandora took its registration data and correlated it with U.S. census data to match which types of listeners live in Hispanic/Spanish-speaking communities in the country. This is, of course, an imperfect science, but Pandora claims it is at least 10% more accurate than the data collected via cookies.

Pandora did not previously have cookie tracking in its mobile app, meaning its only targeted ads were display ads in browsers.

It is also conducting national surveys to determine the demographics of certain genre listeners. For example, Pandora found a large section of males 18-34 who listen to electronic music also enjoy playing video games.

Though the online radio company has ambitious plans, and is even considering expanding into an actual ad exchange at some point.

Computer software security firm Veracode took at look at the code for the app for Pandora—one of the supposed targets of the federal investigation, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. And Veracode’s analysis indicates that the type of data—and how it is obtained—is rather detailed.


The company found software code that ties the app to five online ad companies: AdMarvel, AdMob, comScore (SecureStudies), Google.Ads, and Medialets. And those parts of the Pandora app code, the “ad libraries,” are designed to routinely assess a smart phone’s status: geographic location, connection to the wireless net and what software is running.


Veracode says on its own blog about the analysis:

In isolation some of this data is uninteresting, but when compiled into a single unifying picture, it can provide significant insight into a person’s life. Consider for a moment that your current location is being tracked while you are at your home, office, or significant other’s house. Couple that with your gender and age and then with your geolocated IP address. When all that is placed into a single basket, it’s pretty easy to determine who someone is, what they do for a living, who they associate with, and any number of other traits about them.


Just who is aware of what types of personal data are being collected by mobile apps and when and how are such private info being shared?

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