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Spotify’s Pre-Save Feature Gives Record Labels User Data, Account Access

If you saved Drake and Chris Brown's "No Guidance" to a Spotify playlist before the track's release, you may have unknowingly given Sony the ability to upload images to your profile. If you added Little Mix's "Bounce Back," you gave the label access to take actions in your account on your behalf. This isn't a hack—the terms of Spotify's pre-save feature is to blame.

Pre-saving a song on Spotify may divulge a lot of data about users to record labels—at least more data than usual, says a recent Billboard report. Spotify's pre-save feature lets users save certain songs to their library in advance of the track's release. For record labels, pre-saving tends to boost week-one listening numbers for new music.

The amount of data a Spotify user may hand over to a label varies, Billboard notes, but labels are able to track what users listen to as well as remotely control what songs a user streams and even change which artist a user follows.

According to Billboard, Sony's label, Sony Music, was one of the worst offenders. Spotify users who attempted to pre-save a Sony song could "allow Sony to 'view your Spotify account data,' 'view your activity on Spotify' and 'take actions in Spotify on your behalf,'" the article said. These permissions aren't readily apparent to the user, requiring a Spotify customer to drill down into numerous menus.

In a statement sent to Fortune, a Spotify spokesperson pointed out the music streaming service's privacy policy, noting that the company takes data privacy and its "obligations to users extremely seriously."

The policy is just the latest way in Spotify continuing to find ways to monetize its users' data, despite its 100 million paying subscribers.

In 2018, for instance, the company released a voice control feature, allowing users to call up their favorite artists, simply by saying their request out loud. Spotify's option of voice search offered convenience for users who would rather speak a search query than type it out. But digging into Spotify's privacy policy revealed how the feature provided an added benefit for the company. In the section titled, "What does Spotify do with the voice data it collects," the company notes using customer voice data for tailored ads and sharing user voice clips with their service providers.

For better or worse, collecting voice data to determine which ads a user should get isn't unlike the practices of other tech companies. In 2015, however, Spotify outraged consumers for overstepping user privacy. In an update to Spotify's privacy policy, the company said would be allowed to collect users' photos, contacts, media files, and location data. Spotify later clarified, saying users would have to opt into this type of data collection.

More recently, in May of this year, the Washington Post revealed that Spotify, along with many other popular apps, passes along personal info found on a user's iPhone to third-party companies if they have the "background refresh" setting turned on.

In contrast, Apple Music, Spotify's biggest competitor doesn't share subscriber data, though it does offers up music library and recently played song info to third-parties, notes Billboard. Tidal, another Spotify competitor, does share streaming data to third-party partners according to its privacy policy. While other services share less than info than Spotify's pre-save feature, for music fans hoping to stay private, no streaming service offers a sound solution.

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