Spotify is hoping that users will share their genealogy collected from AncestryDNA in exchange for custom playlists in an effort to help listeners discover new music and potentially appreciate their cultures a bit more -- a strategy that raises privacy concerns.
The firms announced a new partnership to create playlists based on user DNA using test results from AncestryDNA’s patented DNA home kit data to give users recommendations based on both their Spotify habits and their ancestral place of origin.
Critics have pointed out that AncestryDNA’s terms of service ask that users forfeit partial rights to govern how the company uses their DNA, including damages that might come as a result, since Ancestry claims partial ownership of a “perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide license” that may be used against “you or a genetic relative” as the company and its researchers see fit.
An Ancestry spokesperson has clarified that the company no longer uses the terms of service that outlined the controversial measures and told SPIN that customer privacy is their highest priority. In addition, Spotify does not have access to DNA data of any Ancestry customers.
“Customers can manually input regions into the playlist generator on Spotify and then a custom playlist is created with songs by artists from the various regions and across a wide variety of musical genres,” the spokesperson said. “All information is manually input by customers and the experience is completely optional.”
Robert Capps, vice president and authentication strategist for NuData Security, pointed out that should there be a breach, DNA, if exposed, could be used to fuel identity theft and account takeovers.
“While using your DNA is a clever way to find cross-cultural music that may add to users’ understanding of their personal history, giving companies DNA or any personal information should be undertaken with great care and understanding of the fine print,” Capps said. “In Ancestry’s case, users have to agree to give up partial rights to govern how the company uses your DNA which is cause for pause alone.”