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Spotify is Listening to You

African Woman Sadness Listening Music Tearing Photo

Spotify has patented technology that will allow it to analyse your voice and suggest songs based on your “emotional state, gender, age, or accent”.

The patent, which was filed in 2018 and granted on 12 January, would allow the streaming giant to “make observations” about a user’s environment and emotions using speech recognition technology.

It is common for applications to be personalize for a given user. When you open up a music app you want to see songs and artists that reflect your preferences. When new music is available you want to have it suggested so that you can enjoy new music. However, monitoring a users emotional state based on their voice patterns seems like an invasion of privacy. Any information gathered on users, such as this, is considered meta data and can be used for many different purposes. The inclusion of this new feature brings up four very common threat assessment questions.

First, how is it getting the information, and is there a notification when active? Only commonly used apps such as “Phone” should access the mic. If any other app accesses the mic or camera there should be some explicit notification given. Some users may appreciate the intelligence and personalization of this new Spotify innovation. However, many others find this feature an unwanted invasion of privacy.

Second, how is the meta data used? Obviously, Spotify intends on using this meta data to personalize the music selection on its app in order to enhance its service. As an enhancement and innovation this should drive more users to their platform so that they can generate more revenue through subscriptions and advertising. This information can be used in other ways as well such as targeted advertising when spoken keywords are identified. There are many other ways that this meta data can be used. If you intend on using Spotify be diligent to read their terms regarding service and continue to monitor any changes. It isn’t always stated the intended use and the terms can be amended later to incorporate further infringement.

Third, where is the meta data stored? The data can be stored on the device, outside of the device, or both. Spotify is a streaming music service that is constantly communicating via the internet to Spotify servers to send and receive data. It is reasonable to assume that some of this meta data will be stored remotely. If it is stored remotely then there is a clear concern for data privacy and ownership. Recently, GDPR was enacted in the EU which gives clear legal information on the rights of users concerning their data. In the US, we do not have this type of data protection so our best option is to be diligent to protect our data.

Fourth, is the meta data used for any other purpose. Once a company has your data it is not uncommon for them to share or sell the meta data to other companies and governments. The meta data is used to manipulate people, which can occur in many different ways the most common is through targeted advertising. However, there are many other users for your data. If Spotify does incorporate this feature in the future there should be clear indication of exactly how this data will be used.

If it isn’t clear from our website thus far, Patriots have a duty to protect their freedoms. As such we must be informed of violations and take the appropriate steps to protect and fight. One of the best things you can do when big tech companies, like Spotify, infringe on our rights is stop using them. There are other alternatives out there, such as Deezer, that can provide streaming music service.