A Swedish Company, Spotify, known globally for its music streaming, video streaming and podcasts is in the news again. Recently, the company embarked on an adventurous idea and unexpectedly changed its user terms and conditions. The company forced its customers to agree to its new terms and policies causing a backlash from its customer base, which consists of 75 million global users, 20 million of those being premium users. The modified policy immediately became viral among the customers, who considered this as a breach of their private information.
The updated policy is expected to collect information of users from their mobile phones or smart phones, and collect various information from their devices, such as photos, contacts and other media files. Spotify can also get user videos from the user and use them for targeted marketing. Spotify also expects its users to review its contact list, one by one and share the details with the company. In addition, Spotify can now record a mobile phone’s location by GPS function and even estimate the speed that the user is travelling on a vehicle. Also, as part of this Spotify is banning the “payola” playlists which were created by users to accept undisclosed money to promote songs for a record label.
Why is Spotify interested in the private information? There could be different reasons for that:
- The location based data could be used for targeted advertisements. For example, users driving on a car for a long duration ideally would be hungry and therefore targeted ads would focus on nearby food joints.
- The speed data may also be used by Spotify to suggest songs which could change based on the velocity of the car. If the car is at high speed, it would mean faster songs with heavy beats and if it is stationary or running at slow speed, the songs could be slow and soothing to the ear. However, this kind of application of intelligence may not be appropriate in all the cases. For example, one cannot be sure whether the users of the car at lower speeds would always want to listen to such songs.
- If the user uses Spotify account to connect to other Apps, the company will be able to collect such data.
- Also, the company will be able to track the user interactions with Social Media accounts like Facebook and even be able to track “likes” and “shares”. This would help Spotify to evaluate the mood of the users and suggest appropriate playlists.
The public disappointment was huge. As an example, Markus Persson, creator of Minecraft tweeted cancellation of his Spotify account. He asked Spotify to “consider not being evil”.
So, there are two options for a user –
- a) Stop using Spotify Service
- b) Use the second option (get into your Spotify account, click “Edit Profile” and scroll down to see 3 check boxes to request for receiving Spotify news by Email or SMS or share the user information with third parties). One can opt not to share information with third parties. However, it still remains that the gamut of user information would be with Spotify if the user wants to continue using Spotify. In the future, one cannot believe that the data would not get leaked out.
While Spotify’s decision for privacy changes may have come up considering future product plans in mind, its communication and media team could have handled this rollout better, by building positive opinion and devolving this change over a period of time. Widespread criticism by users of Spotify due to this miscommunication has only helped companies like Apple who want to grab the market where Spotify is a definite leader today. Apple is very aggressive today and had reported 10 million downloads within 4 weeks of its launch of Apple Music. Therefore, there is a chance that majority of the distressed Spotify users could move to Apple or some could even look for other alternates.
Also, the Spotify mishap comes at a time when the Internet is ripe with privacy concern issues. Very recently, the extra-marital site Ashley Madison charged their users for deleting their accounts, but in actual maintained those accounts in their database. This resulted in a group of hackers intruding their site leaking and making public personal information of its users.