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The Washington Post has succeeded in reuniting a lost iPod with its owner—but not by combing through their playlists but rather looking at the Apple ID information associated with the device. Last week The Post's Ryan Kellett figured the Internet, given a few details of the device and the entire music library, might be able to identify the owner of a found iPod. We played along, giving what turns out were some pretty close guesses. But we and the greater Web did not succeed in identifying the owner, 47 year old, Miami-born, Dar Maxwell, pushing Kellett to resort to techier methods. 

The Internet engaged in plenty of stereotyping — our guess was a 30-something feminist — based on the presence of artists like Florence and the Machine, Adele, Beth Hart, in the collection. But without real information, Kellett resorted to snooping. Here's how he identified the owner, explains The Post's Howard Schneider, who actually found the iPod. 

The Post’s Ryan Kellett knew enough about iPod technology to examine the digital “watermark” associated with each purchased iTunes track.

You can find that by right-clicking on a song and going to “get info.” That brings up various pieces of data stored with the file — including, in this case, an e-mail address that served as the “Apple ID” on one of the tracks.

From the e-mail, he was able to find a phone number using other databases and -- voila.

Unlike many of the guesses, which put Maxwell about a decade younger, this more methodical approach brought up the mother of 2, who works in international development. Yet, she still claims that the playlist reflects her personality: "a born-in-the-’60s core with plenty of modern flavors," writes Schneider. 

After this failed experiment, Schneider concedes that ID-ing someone based on a playlist doesn't really work. "As the guesses indicate, you can’t really judge a book by its cover when it comes to mining playlists for clues to character," he writes, after describing two off guesses. But, we beg to differ. Sure, it is hard to peg down the exact identity of a person, but to give us and commenters some credit, the speculation of her general being wasn't too off. We along with at least seven Washington Post commenters pegged Maxwell as an out-of-college white, woman, for example. It's not that easy the identify someone based on their taste in music, but judging and stereotyping is a whole different game.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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