A patent approved in January of this year could eventually pave the way for Spotify to serve up recommendations based on voice surveillance.
In a letter to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, a group of concerned musicians have expressed concern over one of the streaming giant’s technological patents.
The patent in question allows for the “identification of taste attributes from an audio signal.” In other words, the patent would allow Spotify to develop a speech-recognition function which would shape how the platform recommends music to its users. Spotify filed the patent in 2018, which was later approved by the United States Patent And Trademark Office in January of this year.
News of this patent has resurfaced concerns around digital privacy since, in order to function, the speech recognition feature would monitor background noise continuously looking for context clues which may identify the user’s gender, age, location, emotional state, and more.
Over 180 musicians, including Talib Kweli, STS9, and Tom Morello, raised privacy-related concerns to Daniel Ek by signing an open letter. In the letter, the musicians point to several key issues with the technology: the potential for emotional manipulation and discrimination, the potential for a breach in data security and exposure of sensitive information, and the exacerbation of inequality in the music industry driven by artificial technology and profit-seeking algorithms.
The letter requests that Spotify issue a public statement committing they will not use, license, or sell this technology in any capacity. The authors have requested a response from the streaming giant by May 18th.