Over 180 musicians take a stance against Spotify’s speech-monitoring patent

The tech can potentially monitor and record speech to make personalised music recommendations

Spotify Office

Image: Citywire Financial Publishers / Alamy

Over 180 artists have banded together to take a stance against Spotify‘s patent for a music recommendation technology based on speech monitoring.

In 2018, the streaming giant filed a patent for a technology which could monitor and record speech and background noise in order to make personalised music recommendations. The filing was approved by the United States Patent And Trademark Office (USPTO) in January this year.

On 4 May, a coalition of musicians – including Tom Morello, Evan Greer, Downtown Boys and Talib Kweli – sent an open letter to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. They called on Spotify to make a public commitment to never use, license, sell or monetise the technology.

The coalition listed five major concerns regarding the technology: emotional manipulation, discrimination, privacy violations, data security and the possibility it could exacerbate inequality in the music industry. Read the letter in full here.

The letter asks Spotify to issue a public response by 18 May 2021.

Spotify has previously stated it has no upcoming plans to implement the technology. In April, Horacio Guttierez, the company’s Head Of Global Affairs And Chief Legal Officer 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.”


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