The dark side of Spotify data collection

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Listening to music can be an incredibly intimate experience, and what we listen to often says a lot about other areas of our life.

Every now and then it’s about happy times like weddings, birthdays, graduation ceremonies, and birthdays. Other times, it is isolation, grief, or grief. In the middle, it can even be used for daily workouts, studying music, or spending time with your pets. But whatever, there is a song for every moment.

However, companies knowing all of this can be a problem, especially they are used to convince you to buy things that you don’t need or that are not good for you using emotional analysis.

Spotify’s plans for using emotional analysis technology

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In 2018, Spotify filed a patent this would basically allow her to make suggestions based on your emotional state, gender, age, social background, or even your accent. Revealing plenty of clues about Spotify’s future through emotional analysis, this patent was finally approved in January 2021.

While it can be argued that song titles or playlists already reveal a large part of a person’s mood, Spotify plans to take it a step further by using voice technology combined with history and music. metadata. According to its patent, Spotify can assign various emotional states based on pitch, intonation and rhythm using artificial intelligence.

Besides voice recognition, the patent also reveals the role of environmental metadata. For example, geolocation enabled reveals whether you’re on your morning commute, in a bar, or at work. Using your subscription location, Spotify also knows if you’re likely in the comfort of your own home.

On the other hand, it can also identify a user’s audio environment entries that reveal whether you are listening alone, in a couple, or in a group.

So why exactly is this a problem?

The dystopian possibility of emotional surveillance

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In many ways, streaming is a gift that allows people to access content like never before. However, it also gives brands access to you in ways you never thought possible. In fact, Spotify finds itself in a unique situation where it can recognize important life events, vulnerable emotional states, and social situations when they actually occur.

At first, it may appear that the data collected will be used only for music recommendations. However, it is important to understand that Spotify also shares this information with other companies. While we can’t be sure who will have access to it, it is likely to appear on embedded social profiles, third-party advertisers, or even data brokerage databases.

Related: How to Stop Advertisers From Stealing Your Data

For example, if you create or follow playlists with the word “Marriage,” your digital footprint will include being married to your character online. If other information about you reveals that your wedding is happening soon, you will likely get advertisements related to products and services aimed at engaged or newly married couples, such as honeymoons or real estate agents.

Perhaps a bigger problem, however, is when the music you listen to suggests negative emotions. If your combined metadata suggests that your relationship is headed for divorce or is in the middle of a divorce, third-party advertisers could quickly jump on the emotional vulnerability and complicated feelings that come with it. It can mean anything from showing ads for gambling sites, alcohol, or even apps designed to get partners wrong.

Vulnerable groups like adolescents are also at high risk of being manipulated by companies seeking to profit from their emotional volatility and their need for acceptance. Young people who are seen as always alone, sad and regularly listen to depressing music can become the primary targets of all kinds of products and services.

Hopefully, and expect, Spotify can handle the ethical implications of knowing exactly when people are most vulnerable. However, it is not known how much of this data is safe in the hands of aggressive data brokers, hackers, or other companies.

How to stop Spotify from using your data

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Before you can start preventing Spotify from using your data against you, it’s important to know what kind of data they’re actively collecting. While Spotify collects some information that is necessary to improve your listening experience, some of the data it collects is not.

Next, you need to understand that your data is more powerful when it’s in context. For this reason, you should make your data on all platforms harder to attribute to yourself by decentralizing it. With this, it is better to unlink social profiles, single sign-on and mobile numbers as much as possible. If this is not necessary for accessibility, it may also be a good idea to turn off things like location tracking and voice recognition.

Related: How Much Money Does Spotify Pay to Artists?

However, it’s important to remember that Spotify is a business. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect their services to be free (even if they are called Spotify Free). One of the best ways to ensure that companies like Spotify get less of your data is to use a paid subscription instead of the free version.

While it’s possible to silence Spotify ads without harming artists, paying for a Spotify subscription likely helps increase payment for your favorite artists. There is no guarantee that your data will not be collected at all, but it is one less channel for you to receive personalized advertising for products and services.

Additionally, using less social media, ad blockers, and anonymous browsers can further reduce your exposure to ads in general.

Be aware of emotional vulnerability online

Brands will always try to find ways to sell you things you don’t need. In fact, it was the norm even before the Internet age. However, the rise of surveillance-driven capitalism dramatically increases the risk of predatory marketing practices.

For this reason, it is always important to control the amount of your data to be recovered. While Spotify may not want to use your data for downright nefarious purposes, the same can’t always be said of third-party advertisers who have little incentive to be ethical.

Finally, remember that while monitoring can help force you to buy, you always have the final say on when and where to spend your money. You have the power to say no to things you don’t need, can’t afford, or just aren’t right for you.


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