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Technology continues to advance at such a rate that it can be hard to fully understand the implications of using the latest mobile app or social media service. What kind of information do the services that allow us to communicate with each other, stream music and do various other things have? And what’s more, do we want them to have that information?
Personally, I’m excited at the thought of them seeing some of my photos — my selfies are the bomb. I could understand if you’re not comfortable with this invasion of privacy though.
The first section worrying people: “3.3 Information Stored on Your Mobile Device.”
“With your permission, we may collect information stored on your mobile device, such as contacts, photos, or media files,” the passage states.
The second section spreading paranoia: “3.4 Location and Sensor Information.”
Part of this section states, “… 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).”
Whether you’re a premium Spotify member or use it for free doesn’t appear to make a difference — they want your data.
Charli XCX performs her latest single, “You Want To Do What With My Private Information?!” (Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images for Advertising Week)
So is that good or bad?
Next, I wanted to know exactly they want to do with this data…
Of course, they’ll also use this data for advertising, not only within Spotify, but outside of Spotify too. Maybe you don’t care, since you ignore ads anyway. Maybe you like having ads catered to your tastes. Or maybe, just maybe, you get creeped out when ads are a little too spot on (I Googled “furries” for work once, which had a really interesting effect to my Facebook advertisements).
What’s a little more unclear is how Spotify will share this information with advertisers and marketers. Information is valuable, which is why it’s easy for services to give people free access, because they can sell whatever statistics they mine from their customers to the highest bidder. If you give them permission to see your address book and photo gallery, will they truly keep that data for themselves to help improve your experience with their services, or will they also sell it to an advertising/marketing firm that wants to manipulate you and your friends into buying the latest Apple-Coca-Cola-Avengers-Snuggie-Whatever?
Even if Spotify were to pinky swear that your data is safe with them, there’s still the threat of hackers. Each week there’s a new privacy breach at various companies thanks to hackers — from Ashley Madison, to Apple and Target — guaranteeing that pretty much no one is capable of protecting your data. So even if you trust Spotify with your GPS locations, do you trust the faceless hackers who might steal it from them?
Even with the ability to customize what data Spotify gets access to in your preferences, it seems like using this app offers some degree of danger. If those dangers worry you, but you still want to use the app, here are some instructions for setting your privacy preferences within Spotify.
Is this a deal breaker? Is it time to abandon Spotify?
I have no clue.
The sad part is, these techniques are endemic throughout many of the apps, social media platforms and websites you use. Spotify is by no means an exception. And while my personal paranoia makes me want to throw my phone into the lake and start wearing a tin-foil hat, my laziness — which is a hell of a lot more influential — makes me want to shrug it off as I continue to stream All Star Jock Jams vol. 208.
Still, many of the questions I raised above still seem valid. On one hand, it’d admittedly be difficult for Spotify to attempt to grow and add features without getting the new permissions they’re requesting. On the other hand, just because they’re asking for these permissions for new features doesn’t guarantee your data is safe with them. At the end of the day, all of this really emphasizes the ways we’re still struggling to understand and grapple with the idea of privacy in the digital age. I expect more situations like this to arise in the future…