Like many other modern knowledge workers today, I work from home. One of the advantages is that I get to watch reruns of Scrubs while I eat my lunch. The other day (June 9, to be precise, for reasons I will shortly make clear), a song I like was playing in the background on Scrubs, so I pulled out my iPhone and fired up the Shazam app. For those not familiar with Shazam, it records a snippet of any song played in its vicinity, then analyzes it and tells you the name and artist. It is handy for just the situation I was in: What is that song and who sings it? In addition to the song title and artist, Shazam shows a picture of the album cover art, if available. And this is what caught my eye—I realized I had seen this cover art before. So I scrolled back through my previous Shazam results and found that I had recorded the same snippet on May 11, 2009. Which tells me two things: 1. I seem to really like that song, and 2. I now know the exact date I previously watched this episode of Scrubs.
The second piece of information may seem trivial, but it is just these kinds of small pieces of info that mobile apps and other programs are picking up daily as we go about our business. As a savvy tech user, I am aware of the various privacy implications of my choices, and while to some it may seem as though I blithely, and too frequently, let third parties into my life, I am fully aware of what I am doing. At least I thought I was, until this incident. It got me thinking about what Shazam could do with this information. What it knows is that I tagged one song on two different occasions. It would not be difficult to comb extant databases and find out how I would have heard that song on those days. And then what? Well, then Shazam would know I like Scrubs, and music featured on Scrubs. If the people behind Shazam ever wanted to expand their business model, they could push recommendations to users about other artists similar to the ones tagged, recommendations about other television shows, or even a reminder that the rerun of Scrubs with the song you like is coming up.
One thing this experience has not seemed to do is encourage me to buy the song. Over a year after tagging it the first time, and weeks since the second, I have still not bought it. Wait—I just did.