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Spotify's new privacy policy generates unnecessary outrage

Spotify's new privacy policy generates unnecessary outrage


A perfect mix of FUD and overreaction

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An ill-timed Spotify privacy policy update has generated an online backlash against the music streaming service just days after the messy Ashley Madison leak. With privacy firmly in the minds of internet users this week, Wired jumped straight on Spotify's new policy to brand it an "eerie" agreement "you can't do squat about."

In a reaction piece, Wired says the various complaints around the new privacy policy include a big addition that has internet alarm bells ringing:

"With your permission, we may collect information stored on your mobile device, such as contacts, photos, or media files. Local law may require that you seek the consent of your contacts to provide their personal information to Spotify, which may use that information for the purposes specified in this Privacy Policy."

An overreaction to a policy that needs work

Apps collecting any personal information like photos or contacts should really have a good explanation of why they need to do so. If you compare Spotify's privacy policy to Twitter's, it's clear Spotify's is far too broad without examples or vital context and detail around the data gathering the service is implementing. Twitter provides examples clearly, but Spotify just wants you to accept information will be collected. Without this necessary context, Wired simply claims Spotify wants to see and collect your photos and who you're talking to just "like a jealous ex." It's an overreaction by Wired and other publications that totally ignores the important "with your permission" clause, suggesting that Spotify will prompt you to share this information instead of secretly stealing it, and with the ability to opt-out and carry on using the service normally.

So what is Spotify actually doing here? Reading the privacy policy objectively, it's clear Spotify is planning to introduce some new features in upcoming app updates. At present, the Spotify iOS app doesn't request access to photos or contacts data. While Spotify isn't detailing any new additions just yet, a statement from the company reveals "the data accessed simply helps us to tailor improved experiences to our users, and build new and personalized products for the future." That's nice, but it still doesn't explain why I need to share my contact information or photos with the service.

Thankfully, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek jumped on Twitter this morning to argue with Minecraft creator Markus Persson (Notch) about the privacy policy. On the subject of accessing photos, Ek compares Spotify's use of photos to Twitter and its privacy policy. "Twitter doesn't need your photos. But it's nice that I can post a photo," explains Ek. "Similarly, I'd argue it's a nice thing that I can upload a photo to my playlist to personalize it." So it's clear that the photos addition isn't to harvest all of your nudes like some crazy jealous ex, but to introduce a new feature to change profile pictures or personalize playlist photos. That makes a lot more sense than stealing your entire camera roll. Equally, Ek reveals that the contacts addition is for a new way to find friends that use Spotify rather than a evil way to harvest your address book and prank call your mom.

Stop with the FUD, please

So, panic over? Kind of. While Ek was quick to explain these additions on Twitter, that context and transparency hasn't made its way into the privacy policy yet, and it's something that should be fully explained. Wired claims there's nothing you can do about Spotify's new privacy policy, but there is. Instead of spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt), a reasonable debate around smarter and more transparent terms of use or even why all these apps constantly need this data would be a way to hold Spotify and many other companies to account. In an age where hackers and government agencies can obtain mountains of personal data, consumers should be more aware about the type of information they share with companies. Overreactions and fear aren't the foundations of any type of education.

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