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TechDirt: Why Everyone's Totally Overreacting To Spotify's Privacy Policy (Which Isn't As Bad As You Think)

Posted by Soledad Vega on Fri, 08/21/2015 - 16:12

Everyday we rely on privacy policies. But let’s face it: No one reads them, and they don’t protect your privacy at all. More transparency and more user control is the real solution.

Article by TechDirt

As you may have heard, yesterday there was a bit of a kerfuffle over the fact that Spotify changed its privacy policy in a way that people are calling creepy and eerie. And there's a ton of chatter on Twitter from people insisting that they'll never use Spotify again because of this. The specific changes that have people up in arms sure do sound creepy at first glance. The key problems are that Spotify's new privacy policy says that it "may collect information stored on your mobile device, such as contacts, photos, or media files" and that it "may also collect information about your location based on, for example, your phone’s GPS location or other forms of locating mobile devices (e.g., Bluetooth). We may also collect sensor data (e.g., data about the speed of your movements, such as whether you are running, walking, or in transit)." There's some other stuff about how it may share information with third party services. 

I understand, instinctively, why so many people freaked out about this -- but it's a pure overreaction for a variety of reasons, which we'll dig into here. There are problems with this whole scenario, but it has a lot more to do with (1) the stupid reliance on "privacy policies" rather than "user controls" for privacy and (2) Spotify's apparently asleep-at-the-wheel PR team. 

Privacy is a Trade-off Not a Thing 

As we've said before, if you ever want perfect privacy, you'd never leave your house. The second you leave your home, you're giving up some level of privacy. But it's a trade-off most people think is perfectly reasonable. Privacy is always like that. It's a trade-off between the benefit you get from giving up a little privacy in order to get the thing that you want. The idea that privacy is some absolute "thing" is a weird way of looking at privacy and makes it difficult to do things in a reasonable manner. The real issue, then, is making sure that people understand the trade-offs involved (and we'll get to that below). 
 

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