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You should ditch Spotify until it ditches its latest policy

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

I'm saying goodbye to Spotify this week, and if you care about privacy, you may want to as well. At least until it figures out that we don't want the company tracking our location in order to have a family plan.

That's what is happening here. Spotify's family plan is super cheap, and the rules say everyone participating as a family needs to live at the same physical address. That's a silly rule, but it is the rule. In order to enforce it, Spotify asks you to pinpoint your location via Google Maps, or enable location tracking when you first join a family membership or set one up. This is another silly practice, but I can see why you're required to do it if you need to comply with silly rule number one. It's after this, though, where things move from silly to downright absurd.

The grocery store can sell me food without verifying my address matches the one on file with my bank.

As of September 5 (in the U.S.), in order to keep your Spotify Premium family account, you need to allow the app to track your location, or check-in "from time to time" once again via Google Maps. Spotify says this is required to make sure you're following silly rule number one outlined above. It also means Spotify wants to check in on you because it assumes you're being dishonest. That's not how this should work. That's not how anything should work. Spotify knows this because it had already tested this "feature" and customer backlash forced it to stop.

I think it's absolutely stupid that your children or your mom or your brother can't share a family plan if they don't live under the same roof. But I also know that it's Spotify's right to make the rules, no matter how stupid I think they may be. But what made me drop my family plan was that Spotify wants me to submit information it does not need because it fears I might secretly separate from my wife and continue to share a streaming music plan with her. I have no plans to do that, so Spotify has no need to check me in again. And again. And again.

I think the "same roof" rule is silly, but it's a rule. I have no plans on breaking it.

The company said in a statement to CNET that, "Once verification of a family member's home address is completed, we do not store their location data or track their location at any time," so at least it's not storing this personal data about users. Most likely, a computer is just matching everyone on a plan and checking that everyone shares the same house. The company also says the data is encrypted during transit, so there's that. Chances are nothing you share with Spotify will be leaked to the internet or used by someone with even worse intentions.

None of this matters. While location gathering can be an issue — especially if anyone on a family plan is under 18 because COPPA is still a thing — it's not something that Spotify needs in order to run my Visa card every month. And it's certainly not something the company needs to play some music for me. It's not something the company needs for anything after I initially agreed that I would only have people in the same house on my family plan. Unless for some reason, Spotify just doesn't trust us.

There will always be people who do things like sharing their Netflix login or signing on someone living in another house for a Spotify family plan. I know it, you know, and industry partners like Spotify know it. This isn't going to stop that because anyone can just say they live at my house when asked by a little Maps pop-up. Nothing will stop people from doing anything to save a few dollars. But treating me like I'm breaking rules will stop me from using your service, Spotify.

Maybe it's time to give Apple Music (opens in new tab) or YouTube Music a try.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

24 Comments
  • I have ditched premium a couple months ago. They made so many changes in the way the app works that it doesn't suit my needs anymore. Spotify has become like any other music streaming service so I decided to use Apple Music because it's included in my wireless plan. That location thing is just another example that Spotify doesn't give a hoot about their customers. Vote with your wallet and, maybe, they wake up!
  • I prefer the free option too. Don't mind the ads once in a while. WiFi everywhere makes streaming a non-issue.
  • Couldn't agree more! I just recently ditched it in favor of my Google Play Music (ahem... YouTube Music) family sub when I sent a kid to college. He might be home often enough to satisfy the checks, or there might be some trickery we could make happen, but it's kind of beside the point. Treating me like I'm trying to cheat the system and constantly making me prove I'm not is not a "privilege" for which I'm going to PAY them. Besides, my kids seem perfectly willing to deal with the GPM/YTM kludge if it means no YouTube ads. (The free YouTube Red is the killer feature there.)
  • I'm actually in the process of downloading YouTube music! I love Spotify but I always wanted to try YouTube music. It feels Spotify is making it easier for me
  • I've been Spotify free for over a year. With no plans on going back . My YouTube premium plan gets rid of YouTube ads . Gives me YouTube music premium , and Google Play music. All for a couple bucks more than what i paid for my monthly Spotify service. I suggest you all try the same. Way more bang for buck on this side
  • I've always said Spotify would be a great service if it wasn't for their policies. Not listening to customers, not improving the underlying service, and now this. It's too bad that Spotify is the universal music service that works with absolutely everything. There are very few services that I can use. I want something that will let me upload missing songs and have a library (and playlists) of more than 10,000 songs. Spotify doesn't do that, Deezer would let me upload enough but its playlists are too limiting, Apple Music does it all but it's a buggy service on Android... Hopefully Google really does bring all of GPM's features to YTM.
  • Paranoia will destroy ya!! We love our Spotify Family and have zero issues with the new rule. I have nothing to hide. I much prefer over the other options like YT or Pandora. None even come close to the great setup Spotify has.
  • Hope Netflix doesn't get any ideas.
  • I don't think I have a problem with this. Well as long as they are just using the location info to police their policies.
  • Don't have a problem with it. It's their rule and if I want to use Spotify then I will comply (and not complain). Choice is a wonderful thing...don't like it, there are other options.
  • It seems the music industry did so much better back in the day when they couldn't do anything about us all recording songs from the radio onto a cassette. They survived that illegal action just fine. Now it seems the corporate-squeeze-every-penny mentality is just making them work harder for less money. It's not just music though, this is a wide spread corporate issue where squeezing ever more profits comes before serving the people that make you those profits in the first place. Grow grow grow forever is the law of business which totally ignores the diminishing return from the fact that the number of people to buy your service is finite. Eventually you will reach a point where there can't be more growth. But CEO's as brilliant at they can be, don't seem to see this fundamental law of nature.
  • How is that even close to the same thing?
  • They actually did, they would adjust the pitch of the song or talk during it.
  • I can think of a bunch of cases when you live under the same roof, but the device is never at home-- tablets at work, old electronics that you keep at school for when you're doing sports, devices at vacation homes. How often are you going to get shut down by Spotify when those things send out false negatives? Because I don't see them coding in exception locations just for these edge cases.
  • Apple music is great, I love it.
  • If you (anyone) claims a discount (here: a volume discount), then you must prove your entitlement. Or pay the full price. If you (Jerry) should want to claim a discount, then you should prove your entitlement - or be like the people you mention. Even if you should qualify. You might have better options than Spotify had thought of, and you might serve "everybody" by communicating your options to them. Anyway, I don't think that I SHOULD ditch Spotify on your grounds. I'm continuing my paid personal subscription.
  • Don't like it? Find another provider.
  • Isn't that what the article saying? Lol
  • This is super super dumb. Every other year I work overseas for 9 months, my family stays at home. Does that mean I can't have a family plan? Hopefully they get enough blow-back and change this policy. If I'm willing to pay extra for a family plan, it shouldn't matter where my family is.
  • sounds like if you mostly use Spotify at work or on the road, there is a good chance you can lose your account since it is not your home location
  • I had to put my address in and it has the wrong postal (zip) code but would not accept me to change it to the right one because I guess I am not smart enough to know my own address. I accepted what it thought my postal code should be, as I did not have a choice. I then went to change it thinking maybe I could. Their solution if you move, close the account and open a new one with the new address, how dumb is that.
  • I have the 6 month trial for getting the note 10, apple music is better and works great on android.
  • I travel/commute 180 miles round-trip with the occasional overnight stay. Does that mean as I'm paying for this is my wife at work and myself on the road can't use Spotify? Is it based on zip code?
    Bonehead move. If that's the case bye Spotify. I'll use Google play as I have it and had never ever threatened me or restricted my usage not my wife while she's at work or my daughter if she decides to have a sleep over at her friends and listen to music. Hope they clarify this stance.
    Otherwise, Google play it is then.
  • I totally agree.