By Najah Walker

 

Spotify is a Swedish-based music service that provides music fans across the world with the ability to legally stream millions of songs.[1] Spotify has garnered massive success since its launch in 2008 and has grown to be one of the biggest streaming platforms in the world.[2] The innovative service was ahead of its time in the early 2000’s by compensating music artists based on the streams they received.[3]

Thirteen years later, Spotify continues to be a leader in innovation.[4] Spotify has patented a technology that can analyze human voice and surrounding noises to make song suggestions based on “emotional state, gender, age, or accent” and several other characterizations.[5] According to the patent, Spotify’s new technology would be able to access a user’s social settings and determine if they were at a party, a small group, or if they were alone.[6] Spotify intends for this technology to better assist users by providing more accurate music recommendations.[7]

They have been adamant about the need to protect their user’s privacy, disavowing “any future research or applications that violate ethical standards of data usage”.[8] However, several users and artists are concerned that Spotify’s new technology will come at the expense of user privacy.[9] Several activists groups, users and musicians have called the technology invasive and have suggested the software is discriminatory.[10] One musician candidly said, “Claiming to be able to infer someone’s taste in music based on their accent or detect their gender based on the sound of their voice is racist, transphobic, and just plain creepy”.[11] There is also a concern that the use of artificial intelligence to recommend music in this way will further divide, be inaccurate and exclude people who don’t speak the languages the system might have been hardcoded to prioritize over others.[12]

Although Spotify may have pure intentions to offer their users the best musical experience, they may do more damage than good by implementing this technology.[13] While it may not be fully accepted yet, similar technology has already been patented by Apple, Google and Amazon in the last few years.[14] The reality of the situation is in the next few years speech emotional recognition technology may be widely used and effect more than just Spotify users.[15]

 

[1] See How Spotify Came to Be Worth Billions, BBC News (Mar. 1, 2018), https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-43240886.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] See generally Mark Savage, Spotify Wants to Suggest Songs Based on Your Emotions, BBC News (Jan. 28, 2021), https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-55839655.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] See Umberto Bacchi, Spotify Urged to Rule Out “Invasive’ Voice Recognition Tech, Reuters (May 4, 2021), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tech-music-privacy/spotify-urged-to-rule-out-invasive-voice-recognition-tech-idUSKBN2CL1K9.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] See Josh Mandell, Spotify Patents A Voice Assistant That Can Read Your Emotions, Forbes (Mar. 12, 2020), https://www.forbes.com/sites/joshmandell/2020/03/12/spotify-patents-a-voice-assistant–that-can-read-your-emotions/?sh=51556b3438d5.

[15] Id.

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