Dear Spotify: don’t manipulate our emotions for profit

Today, Access Now sent a letter to Spotify calling on the company to abandon the technology underlying its recently granted speech-recognition patent because it presents grave privacy and security concerns. The always-on technology claims to be able to detect, among other things, “emotional state, gender, age, or accent” to recommend music.

Access Now’s major concerns with the technology are:

  • Emotion manipulation: Monitoring emotional state, and making recommendations based on it, puts Spotify in a dangerous position of power in relation to a user.
  • Gender discrimination: It is impossible to infer gender without discriminating against trans and non-binary people.
  • Privacy violations: The device would be “always on,” meaning it would be constantly monitoring, processing voice data, and likely ingesting sensitive information.
  • Data security: Harvesting deeply personal data could make Spotify a target for snooping government authorities and malicious hackers seeking information.

“There is absolutely no valid reason for Spotify to even attempt to discern how we’re feeling, how many people are in a room with us, our gender, age, or any other characteristic the patent claims to detect,” said Isedua Oribhabor, U.S. Policy Analyst at Access Now. “The millions of people who use Spotify deserve respect and privacy, not covert manipulation and monitoring.”

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