Musicians, human rights organizations urge Spotify to scrap speech recognition tech

A coalition of musicians and human rights groups is urging Spotify to publicly commit to never implementing or monetizing the speech recognition technology it has developed.

The music streaming site was granted a patent earlier this year technology that it claims can analyze users’ voices to suggest tracks based on “emotional state, gender, age, or accent.”

In a letter sent to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek Tuesday, more than 180 artists and groups warn that the technology is “dangerous” and a “violation of privacy and other human rights.”

Spotify has previously said it has no plans to implement the technology.

“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 monetize the recommendation technology,” Tuesday’s letter reads.

A spokesperson for Spotify directed The Hill to a letter it sent to Access Now, one of the signees of the latest demand, last month committing to not implementing the technology.

Jennifer Brody, advocacy manager at Access Now, said that Spotify’s claim that it will not deploy the technology is “largely smoke and mirrors.”

“If the company actually wants to demonstrate its commitment to protecting human rights, Spotify must publicly declare to never use, license, sell, or monetize its harmful spyware,” Brody said.

The groups and musicians — including Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Talib Kweli, and Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz and Sad13 — say the speech recognition tech could be used to emotionally manipulate users and exacerbate inequalities in the industry.

“Instead of wasting money developing creepy surveillance software, Spotify should be focused on paying artists a penny per stream and being more transparent about the data they’re already collecting on all of us,” Dupuis said.

Spotify has previously experimented with ways to personalize listening experiences, having been granted a patent for tech that would suggest music based on “personality traits.”

–Updated at 11:47 a.m.

Tags Musicians Spotify Spyware voice recognition technology
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