“Unacceptable.” Spotify fails to respond to coalition of 180+ human rights organizations and prominent artists who sent letter protesting company’s voice recognition surveillance plans

Posted May 20, 2021, 3:27 PM


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 19, 2021
Contact: press@fightforthefuture.org

On May 4, 2021, Fight for the Future joined Access Now, Union of Musicians and Allied Workers, as well as a global coalition of more than 180 artists, human rights organizations, and musicians, to send a letter to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. The letter called on the music streaming giant to make a public commitment to never use, license, sell, or monetize its new speech-recognition patent technology.

The signers of the letter, which includes organizations like Amnesty International and Color of Change along with musicians like Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Laura Jane Grace, Sadie Dupuis, and Talib Kwelil gave Spotify until May 18th, two business weeks, to respond. So far the company and its CEO have failed to respond or even acknowledge the letter, beyond pointing reporters to a previous statement they issued, which fails to meet our demands.

“Ignoring a letter like this from human rights groups and artists is completely unacceptable” said Evan Greer (she/they), a musician who signed the letter, and the director of Fight for the Future. “Spotify claimed that they have no plans to implement this incredibly harmful surveillance technology, but when we asked them to publicly commit to that, they’ve gone silent. It seems their billionaire CEO Daniel Ek is too busy (not) buying a sports team to respond to the concerns of artists who have literally billions of streams on his platform and prominent privacy and civil rights groups from around the world. Spotify must completely and publicly reject the premise of this technology and commit to never using, licensing, selling, or monetizing their speech recognition patent.”

“Spotify’s radio silence makes you wonder whether they plan to profit off the dangerous technology they developed,” said Jennifer Brody (she/her), U.S. Advocacy Manager at Access Now. “The global digital rights community is deeply concerned about the proliferation of tech that claims to be able to detect emotion and gender. We are disappointed that Spotify has stopped engaging, yet we will continue to call on the company to do the right thing and abandon the harmful tool.”

Tom Morello (he/him), guitarist of Rage Against the Machine signed the letter and said, “You can’t rock out when you’re under constant corporate surveillance. Spotify needs to drop this right now and do right by musicians, music fans, and all music workers.”

Sadie Dupuis (she/her) of Speedy Ortiz and Sad13, and a member of the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers, said “Instead of wasting money developing creepy surveillance software, Spotify should be focused on paying artists a penny per stream and being more transparent about the data they’re already collecting on all of us.”

Access Now and Fight for the Future organized the letter, signed by human rights groups including Amnesty International, Color of Change, Mijente, Derechos Digitales, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Public Citizen, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Musicians signing include Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Talib Kweli, Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), of Montreal, Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz, Sad13), DIIV, Eve 6, Ted Leo, Anti-Flag, Atmosphere, Downtown Boys, Anjimile, illuminati hotties, Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, The Blow, AJJ, Kimya Dawson, and more.

The groups and artists behind the letter plan to continue escalating efforts to pressure Spotify.