Over 180 musicians have signed an open letter taking a stand against Spotify’s speech monitoring patent.
The streaming company had a patent approved earlier this year for a piece of technology that can monitor and record both users’ speech and background noise to help curate music for Spotify users.
Now, the likes of Tom Morello, Laura Jane Grace, DIIV, Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, Downtown Boys, Talib Kweli and many more have signed an open letter calling on Spotify to never use, license or sell the patent. It was also backed by a number of organisations including the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers.
The letter, which is addressed to co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek, lists the artists’ and groups’ concerns, including that the patient will be used to monitor users’ emotional states, discriminate against trans and non-binary people, violate privacy, harvest data and “exacerbate inequality in the music industry”.
Spotify’s Daniel Ek. CREDIT: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
“Spotify claims that the technology can detect, among other things, ‘emotional state, gender, age, or accent’ to recommend music,” they wrote. “This recommendation technology is dangerous, a violation of privacy and other human rights, and should not be implemented by Spotify or any other company.
“While we are pleased to hear that Spotify has no current plans to deploy the technology, it begs the question: why are you exploring its use? We call on your company to make a public commitment to never use, license, sell or monetise the recommendation technology.
“Even if Spotify doesn’t use it, your company could profit from the surveillance tool if another entity deploys it. Any use of this technology is unacceptable.”
The signees concluded the letter by requesting a public response from Spotify on the issue by May 18, 2021. You can read the letter in full here.
In April, the company’s Head Of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer Horacio Guttierez told Access Now: “Spotify has never implemented the technology described in the patent in any of our products and we have no plans to do so. Our research and development teams are constantly envisioning and developing new technologies as part of our ongoing innovation cycle.
“Sometimes those innovations end up being implemented in our products and sometimes they don’t. The decision to patent an invention does not always reflect the company’s intent 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 at large.”
Meanwhile, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has secured the funding to buy Arsenal from owner Stan Kroenke, after the London club were involved in the ill-fated plans to launch a European Super League.
The streaming platform boss’ plans were met with hostility from musicians, who suggested he fix Spotify’s much-criticised payment model with his money instead of investing it in a football club.