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Spotify CEO Issues Apology Over New Privacy Controversy

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek writes that recent privacy policy changes have "caused a lot of confusion about what kind of information we access and what we do with it. We apologize for that."

Backlash is almost expected once popular companies decide to alter their terms of service — you get your buzzword-chocked hot takes from smart or famous people, followed by viral outrage, and finally, cancelations (or threats of them, at least). For Spotify, the condemnation over its new set of terms and privacy guidelines has followed this plot like a freshman scriptwriting seminar, leading to a Twitter-off between Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek and Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, the billionaire creator of Minecraft. 

This very sudden and very heated debate resulted in a blog post this morning from Ek, titled “SORRY.” The executive writes that the privacy policy changes have “caused a lot of confusion about what kind of information we access and what we do with it. We apologize for that. We should have done a better job in communicating what these policies mean and how any information you choose to share will — and will not — be used.” Ek goes on, across four bullet points that all begin “We will never,” to explain in clearer terms the pending changes.

The were first announced in a blog post by Spotify’s user communications manager Candice Katz on Monday (Aug. 17). Most of the updated terms of use are geared towards making things “clearer,” like how brands interact with Spotify and clarifying rules behind user-generated content and promotional offers and trials.

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It’s the new elements of the streaming service’s privacy policy that are chapping hides the world over. The main bit: “We may ask for customer permission to collect information from new sources, such as address book, location, and sensor data from the mobile device to improve the customer experience and inform product decisions.”

The actual ToS, which went into effect in the U.S. on Aug. 19, goes into more detail about the types of “new sources” of data gathered from your phone. “With your permission, we may collect information stored on your mobile device, such as contacts, photos, or media files.”

In her post, Katz explains that granting Spotify access to this new data “helps us to tailor improved experiences to our users, and build new and personalized products for the future.” She closes by stressing Spotify’s dedication to privacy. “We will always ask for individual permission or clearly inform you of the ability to opt out from sharing location, photos, voice and contacts.”

The aforementioned backlash unsurprisingly focuses on these new moves to collect more of your data. Following Katz’s post, Wired and Fortune wrote pieces calling the terms “eerie” and “creepy,” respectively. Even Graham Linehan, creator of Father Ted and The IT Crowd, weighed in:

Following the uproar, comments sections and social media became rife with users pledging to dump Spotify over the new terms. Whether Ek’s apology quiets the furor remains to be seen — otherwise, expect more of this: