Spotify apologizes over privacy policy

The music streaming service Spotify apologized to users Friday and vowed to update its privacy policy again in the coming weeks after online backlash erupted over reports of recent changes. 

The company’s chief executive Daniel Ek wrote in a blog post that the company would “ask for your express permission” before accessing any of the data covered by the new terms, including photos, location data, contacts or your device’s microphone. 

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“We should have done a better job in communicating what these policies mean and how any information you choose to share will — and will not — be used,” he wrote in a post on the company’s website titled simply, “Sorry.”

He said the company would only use the data for specific purposes.

Certain photos that users voluntarily share could be used for profiles or cover art. The location data would be used to show users what is trending in their area. Spotify said it could ask to access users’ contacts in the future as a way for users to find friends on the platform. And the microphone would only be used by people who want to give commands hands-free, according to the company. 

“Let me be crystal clear here: If you don’t want to share this kind of information, you don’t have to,” Ek said. “We will ask for your express permission before accessing any of this data — and we will only use it for specific purposes that will allow you to customize your Spotify experience.”

He said the company would provide an updated policy in the “coming weeks.”

The privacy policy also mentions the sharing of information with third parties like advertisers, rights holders and mobile networks. Ek said that is “not new.” He noted the information shared with marketers is "de-identified."

The two provisions that sparked the most concern were about information stored on mobile devices and location and sensor information. 

“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,” according to the information section of the privacy policy. 

The location information portion reads: “Depending on the type of device that you use to interact with the Service and your settings, we may also collect information about your location based on, for example, your phone’s GPS location or other forms of locating mobile devices (e.g., Bluetooth). We may also collect sensor data (e.g., data about the speed of your movements, such as whether you are running, walking, or in transit).”