Hoping to beat rivals, Google Play Music starts using your location & activity to recommend tunes

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Google today announced the launch of a new version of its Google Play Music service, in an effort to better compete with rivals like Spotify and Apple Music in terms of personalization. Like the other top streaming services, Google Play Music will now cater to its audience’s unique tastes and interests in order to suggest songs you want to hear, as well as match you with the right music for your mood or current activity.

How Google goes about doing this, however, differs from its competition.

Personalized music is something Spotify has already mastered through its well-liked Discovery Weekly playlist, and its newer Daily Mix, which combines music you like with Spotify’s suggestions. The latter was launched in response to Apple Music’s own My Favorites Mix, a playlist that mixes favorite tracks with other tunes you might like, too.

As all the services all try to one-up each other with their own takes on how suggestions should work, Google has tapped into machine learning and its (sometimes creepy) ability to know exactly what you’re doing, where and when.

The company explains that it will figure out what sort of music you like based on your behavior – much like the others do today. That generally means it takes into account things like what you’re listening to, which artists you listen to more than others, and other learnings from watching how you use the service. But Google says it will also mix in signals like location, activity and the weather to offer hand-picked playlists to personalize music for “wherever you are.”

For example, the service may know if you’re at home, at work, flying, exploring a new city, entering the gym to start your workout, and more.

Google hopes that suggesting the right music at the right time will make the service seem smarter and more useful, but it will also highlight just how much Google is tracking you as you move about your world. In the race to offer the next level of personalization, users are being opted into sharing this kind of data with their music provider.

Remember that this music provider is Google, a company that has been working to increase its stockpiles of data on its users – most recently, by a privacy policy change that allows it to combine your personal info collected by Google services with DoubleClick cookie information for increasingly targeted, highly personalized ads.

Google tells us to disable this tracking feature, users can opt-out of Location History at any time by clicking a link found in Google Play Music’s Settings menu.

“We take privacy and security very seriously and only access as much information as we need to serve you the right music at the right time,” a spokesperson said.

In addition to the above changes, Google Music is also getting a revamp which includes a new home screen where these suggested playlists will appear. Here, you may find recommendations from your recents, new releases, music for fans of your favorite artist, and the suggested playlists Google is recommending based on what you’re doing. Which items appear and when will be based on Google’s understanding of your behavior, location, and other factors.

For instance, if you tend to always launch a certain playlist after work, it will soon start appearing at that time here on this screen. If you’re about to hop on a plane, a playlist of music for flying might pop up instead.

The new version of Google Play Music is coming to Android, iOS and the web starting this week, and will roll out globally to 62 countries.