So what is all the fuss about?
Spotify already has rich datasets about its users thanks to its knowledge of their listening history, but now it wants to collect more information — information that comes from outside of the service itself. The company wants access to all of its users’ pictures, address books, GPS details and sensor data, which can be found stored on their smartphones.
There has been widespread outrage at these changes, with many users expressing their confusion and disappointment over why a music streaming service would need access to this personal information. Some users have even quit the service, encouraged by several high profile Twitter users.
“Hello. As a consumer, I’ve always loved your service. You’re the reason I stopped pirating music. Please consider not being evil,” tweeted Minecraft creator Markus Persson.
If you are a Spotify user wondering whether you should be concerned, here is the statement from Spotify to try and persuade you not to be:
“Spotify is constantly innovating and evolving its service to deliver the best possible experience for our users. This means delivering the perfect recommendations for every moment, and helping you to enjoy, discover and share more music than ever before. The data accessed simply helps us to tailor improved experiences to our users, and build new and personalised products for the future. Recent new features include Spotify Running, which matches the BPM of your music to the pace of your run, or the new Discover Weekly feature, which curates a weekly playlist based on your tastes.”
What the company is implying is that the collection of this data will be used to make Spotify better — to ensure that it can improve current features and develop new ones that will improve your user experience. Take sensor data, for example. Accessing sensor data is probably one of the things Spotify does need to do in order to improve one of its existing features. The recently introduced Spotify Running feature relies on sensors for it to be able detect pace and match music to how fast users are jogging.
When data is collected, the main user concern should always be who will have access to that data and how it will be shared beyond those who have collected it. So what does Spotify have to say about this? “The privacy and security of our customers’ data is — and will remain — Spotify’s highest priority. We will always ask for individual permission or clearly inform you of the ability to opt out from sharing location, photos, voice and contact,” it says. This suggests that you will be able to refuse to give access to these features and still remain a Spotify user if you so wish. For most users it will probably come down to whether or not they believe this data collection is unnecessary given the new features Spotify decides to release. Until we see what the company has in the pipeline, it’s perfectly rational to give it the benefit of the doubt before deciding whether the data collection really is necessary.
Before you consider quitting Spotify, it also might be worth checking what other apps and services you might already be giving this away to. It’s easy to be provoked into thinking about privacy when there is a public outcry, but if you are going to take a stand, then it’s probably a good idea to be aware of where else your data may be ending up without your knowledge.