German Spotify triggers privacy concerns | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 15.03.2012
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German Spotify triggers privacy concerns

Since its launch in Germany this week, Swedish online music streaming service Spotify has been in the crosshairs of data protection authorities worried about users' privacy and Spotify's links with Facebook.

The launch of online music streaming service Spotify in Germany on Tuesday has brought data protection back in the spotlight, especially because of its connection to social network Facebook, which has just been found guilty in Germany of violating certain privacy and data protection rules.

"Using Spotify requires you to register with your Facebook account," Anja-Maria Gardain, spokeswoman for the Berlin commissioner for data protection and freedom of information, Alexander Dix, told DW. She said she is concerned that users cannot register anonymously or use a pseudonym.

"Facebook does not comply with German data protection law, which has recently been confirmed by a court in Berlin. That's why we can only recommend that Spotify adjust its business model so it complies with German law," she added.

A Berlin court ruled last week that Facebook's friend finder, which invites users to import their address book even if some entries are not on Facebook, is illegal. The court also found that Facebook does not have automatic worldwide rights to users' content.

Terms of use not clear

On its German website, Spotify, which lets users stream music online for free as well as through subscription packages that strip out advertisements, states that users can register for its services via Facebook or via a Spotify account.

However, when trying to register, it does seem to only give the Facebook option. The Berlin Commissioner's team had the same experience.

"The discrepancy between the terms of use stated on the website and actual reality is a problem," Gardain said, adding that when she and her team tried to register for Spotify, the only option was via Facebook.

"We will investigate the matter and the get in touch with Spotify," she told DW.

German data protection laws are among the world's strictest and each of Germany's 16 states is permitted to set its own privacy rules.

Spotify could not provide a response in time for the publication of this article. But founder Daniel Ek told the dpa news agency last week that "there were significant obstacles to entering the German market," but he added that "we are now in a good position."

symbolic graphicized picture of CDs with writing on them

Illegal downloads are a costly problem for the music industry

Spotify a boon for music industry

Meanwhile, music industry representatives welcome the launch of Spotify as a means to entice people to pay for music online.

"Music streaming services are an exciting new area of digital music distribution," Florian Drücke, director at the German Association of the Music Industry (BVMI) told DW in an emailed statement.

He emphasized that more than 3 million people in Germany download music illegally. "Three quarters of those do not pay for music at all, be it for digital or actual physical music. It's a dramatic development that streaming services can help counteract by allowing that transition to legally enjoying music," Drücke said.

Spotify says it has 10 million users worldwide, 3 million of which pay for its subscription services. The service is available in 12 other countries.

Author: Nicole Goebel
Editor: Sean Sinico