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Terms & Conditions: What happens on Pandora does not stay on Pandora

Pandora: Terms and Conditions

What are you really agreeing to when you click that fateful “agree” button? Terms & Conditions cuts out the legal lingo to spell it out in plain English.

Before Spotify, there was Pandora. The 13-year-old Internet streaming radio service remains one of the most popular on the market, thanks to its free listening options, ease of use, and arguably superior station customization engine, the Music Genome Project. Its reach could extend even further with this week’s release of a Windows Phone 8 app that gives users ad-free listening through the end of the year. As with any other online service, users must agree to the rules and stipulations laid out by Pandora in its terms of service. Here are the most important things you need to know.

Terms of Service

Nothing about Pandora is particularly controversial. You create some stations based on your favorite songs or artists, press play, and that’s about it. As such, nothing in Pandora’s terms will come as much of a surprise. But there are a few key points to know.

Under 13? Better get a parent

Few segments of the population get into music with greater fervor than kids and teenagers. But thanks to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), Pandora must bar anyone under the age of 13 from using its service, without parental consent. The company also stipulates that, because some music may include “strong language, depictions of violence, sex, or substance abuse,” parents of kids 13 to 17 should also use “discretion” before allowing their teenager to have an account.

Censored!

Parents who do allow their younger children to have a Pandora account may turn on an “explicit content” filter. The filter applies to all stations on a particular account, and can be turned on or off in the account settings on Pandora.com.

Not-so-private parts

Like most other freemium services, Pandora collects a wide variety of information about you, including personal data (email address, birth year, gender, zip code), which tracks you listen to, the stations you make, and which songs you thumb-up or thumb-down. Most of this information is used to provide you with its unique personalized service. But the data is also shared with advertisers. (As if you didn’t know that already.) And the company also uses surveys and promotional offers to collect even more information about you – so don’t participate in those if you care about how much information about you is available to advertisers and data brokers.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about privacy on Pandora is that your entire account profile is public, unless you turn it private in the account settings. This means third-party companies can scrape your information – which stations you’ve made, namely – to build out profiles about you. In other words, what happens on Pandora does not stay on Pandora.

Also important: Even if you set your Pandora profile to “private,” anyone who knows the email address you used to register can find the stations you listen to. So no matter what you do, Pandora is never truly private. Maybe that’s a problem for you. Maybe it’s not – but that’s how it is.

Keep it to yourself

Even if you pay the $36 per year for a premium (ad-free, unlimited listening) Pandora account, the terms still mandate that you only use it for personal purposes – in your car, home, etc. If you want to play Pandora Radio at your business, you’ll have to sign up for a business account, which you can do here.

Your password, please

Among the rules Pandora lays out in its terms, the only one that I wager really matters to the average user is this: You may not share your Pandora account password with anyone else. If you do, Pandora may delete your account. (It also reserves the right to delete your account for any reason, without notice.) It’s also against the rules to download songs from Pandora, or recreate them in any way that violates copyright. That, too, could lead to a Pandora-free life.