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.
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.
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.
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