Over 180 musicians have signed an open letter against Spotify’s speech monitoring patent.
The patent was first filed by the streaming service in 2018 and approved in January. In Spotify’s application, they claimed that the technology would work by retrieving audio, including voice signals and background noise, to understand “content metadata” about users’ emotional state, gender, age and accents.
There has now been a backlash from artists including Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, Laura Jane Grace, DIIV, and many more who have all signed an open letter calling on Spotify not to use, license or sell the patent. Their joint letter is supported by the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers.
The letter has been penned to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek and lists the worries they have with the patent. “Spotify claims that the technology can detect, among other things, ’emotional state, gender, age, or accent’ to recommend music,” he wrote.
“This recommendation technology is dangerous, a violation of privacy and other human rights, and should not be implemented by Spotify or any other company.
“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 monetise the recommendation technology. Even if Spotify doesn’t use it, your company could profit from the surveillance tool if another entity deploys it. Any use of this technology is unacceptable.”
Last month, Spotify’s Head Of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer Horacio Guttierez told Access Now: “Spotify has never implemented the technology described in the patent in any of our products, and we have no plans to do so. Our research and development teams are constantly envisioning and developing new technologies as part of our ongoing innovation cycle.
“Sometimes those innovations end up being implemented in our products, and sometimes they don’t. The decision to patent an invention does not always reflect the company’s intent to implement the invention in a product but is instead influenced by a number of other considerations, including our responsibilities to our users and to society at large.”