Spotify could start using your voice data to serve you targeted ads

Spotify Home Tab
Spotify Home Tab (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Spotify's "Hey Spotify" hands-free feature is now rolling out to iOS and Android users in the U.S.
  • A contentious section in the company's new privacy policy indicates it could use your voice and data to provide targeted ads.
  • Spotify also filed on a new patent for technology that'll theoretically let the app monitor your voice to read your mood in service of relevant music and advertising.

Spotify today finally announced its new "Hey Spotify" feature, one that will allow users to verbally summon Spotify's voice search feature without having the app open as if it were Alexa or the Google Assistant. It's rolling out now in some parts of the U.S. to Android and iOS phones, though Spotify plans to expand availability going forward.

Writing in a blog post today, the Spotify team shared some tidbits on their approach to privacy, mimicking approaches taken by Google and Amazon:

When you say, "Hey Spotify…" the app will begin picking up what you say, and continue only until it's processed your question or request. Plus, Spotify will always indicate—with an in-app visual or audio tone—when it is receiving your voice input. The rest of the time, the app listens for "Hey Spotify" in short, few-second snippets that are deleted if you don't say it.

While that all sounds well and good, Spotify's 'Hey Spotify' implementation may also serve to reawaken those old conspiracy theories about virtual assistants. Remember when everyone thought that Facebook was listening to you and using your voice data to suggest ads? Spotify's privacy policy indicates that it'll actually be doing that.

In a section spotted by the folks over at Engadget, Spotify says that it'll be using voice data for a couple of things, including suggesting more relevant ads. Of course, Spotify may also be using those to further its voice ads program, but that program has been all but dead for a while now.

Spotify's ideas for voice data use have already raised the alarm among researchers, and this step seems unlikely to quell those concerns.

It's not clear whether Spotify will start using voice data for ads right away or how that gels with its stated aim of deleting snippets of unrelated text. One thing's for certain; the company's done a good job providing proof to the paranoid.

Michael Allison