Earlier this year, Spotify secured one for a voice recognition system that could record a person’s “emotional state”, age and gender and use this information to make personal listening recommendations. As you might imagine, the possibility that the company was working on such a technology made many people uncomfortable, including digital rights non-profit Access Now. In early April, the organization sent Spotify a call for it to abandon the technology. After responding privately to these concerns, Spotify, along with several other groups and a gathering of more than 180 musicians, is asking the company to publicly commit to never using, licensing, selling or monetizing the system it patented. Some of the individuals and bands signing the letter include Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, rapper Talib Kweli and indie group DIIV.
In a new letter addressed to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, the coalition outlines five primary concerns with the technology. It worries that it will allow Spotify or any other company that distributes it to manipulate users emotionally, harvest their personal information, and discriminate against trans and non-binary people. It also says the technology will only serve to further exacerbate the economic inequalities in the music industry. “Music needs to be made for human connection, not to please a profit-maximizing algorithm,”
When we asked Spotify to comment on Access Now’s request, the company Engadget pointed to a letter it sent to the organization in mid-April. “Spotify has never implemented the technology described in the patent in any of our products, and we have no plans to do so,” Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s Global Affairs Director, said in the letter. “The decision to patent an invention does not always reflect the company’s intention to implement the invention in a product, but is instead influenced by a number of other considerations, including our responsibilities to our users and to society as a whole.”
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