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Over 180 musicians opposing Spotify speech monitoring technology

In January, Spotify received an approved patent on technology to monitor and record users speech and background noise to curate music for Spotify users.

Daniel EK

An open letter has been penned to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek by a group of over 180 musicians, including Laura Jane Grace, Tom Morello, and Talib Kweli. The group expressed concerns over one of the technology patents granted earlier this year.

The patent they are referring to allows for “identification of taste attributes from an audio signal”. Simply put, it would allow Spotify to develop a speech-recognition function that can monitor and record users’ speech and background noise, ultimately influencing and recommending music to its users.

The letter details how this technology can detect “emotional state, gender, age or accent” to recommend music. This raises concerns about the invasion of privacy and other human rights. The open letter believes this type of technology should not be implemented by Spotify or any other company for that matter.

In addition, the letter also raises further concerns about the technology:  the potential for manipulation and discrimination, not to mention the potential risk of a breach in data security exposing sensitive customer information, add further fuel to an already raging debate about inequality in the music industry. This type of technology would drive the proliferation of artificial technology and profit-seeking algorithms.

Jennifer Brody (she/her/hers), US Advocacy Manager at Access Now says:

“Spotify’s claim that they have no plans to deploy its dangerously invasive tech is largely smoke and mirrors. If the company actually wants to demonstrate its commitment to protecting human rights, Spotify must publicly declare to never use, license, sell, or monetize its harmful spyware.”

The authors of the open letter have requested a response from Spotify by 18th May 2021.

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