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Google Music Tunes Into Where You Are and What You’re Doing

Google Music is now leveraging big data and machine learning technology to curate playlists customized to fit your mood and current activity.

Who knew something so innocuous as playing music could find its way into concerns over privacy and surveillance? Google Music is now leveraging the benefits of big data, for your convenience (and moderate, healthy skepticism), to deliver you playlists that best suit any given moment. In this post we’ll give you a glimpse into what exactly Google Music is doing, how they’re accomplishing it, and whether or not you should be concerned.

What are these intuitive playlists?

We all know that somewhere out there is that perfect, elusive, and enigmatic playlist for every occasion. There are dedicated playlists for commuting, taking a walk, studying, going to the gym, or wallowing in the angst of a horrible break up. Dedicated music aficionados will meticulously craft each list with fastidious precision. But for the rest of us, that isn’t an option. Most of us lazily scour Spotify’s options and hope for the best, or choose the closest fitting Pandora assemblage based on an artist.

Read More: What Information Does Facebook Collect About Its Users?

Google Music has taken this one step further by intuiting what you want based on where you are. The obvious example here is, if you’re at the gym you likely want a workout playlist, and if you’re on the bus or train, en route, then you’d opt for something different — maybe something relaxing and contemplative. If you’re at home, perhaps you tend to listen to classical music while you read or study. Google Music wants to satisfy your music needs without you having to resort to tedious list-searches.

How does it work?

Google uses a combination of tech and curation to bring you the most intuitive playlist. Where tech is concerned, “intuition,” at least at the moment, means discerning the most probable option through pattern recognition. Google’s machine learning technology relies on algorithms which process data, such as your location, the weather, and your history of habits to optimize the music it streams. Then, they use human curators to tweak and perfect the data that the tech conveys. Using this combined method, Google can get a pretty good sense of your musical tendencies. Are you the type who blasts dance music as soon as you get home? Do you fancy some Blues as you unwind? Though we are all complex and nuanced in our behavior, over time most people will display consistencies in their preferences overall.

Should I be concerned?

Whenever personal data is being utilized for a service, the knee-jerk reaction is concern. That’s a good thing! Where security is concerned you never want to grow too complacent. But like any other service that requires your location, it’s a setting you can turn on or off depending on how you feel about it. You might feel it to be a violation knowing human curators are involved, acclimating to your musical tastes, or you might be indifferent to the fact that someone will know you religiously listen to Taylor Swift. In any case, it’s not that personal, and the choice is up to you.