In short: Spotify needs microphone access to enable voice control. It also analyzes the sounds around you and your emotional mood to give you the perfect song recommendations.
Music-streaming apps like Spotify are made to serve you songs and podcasts. Which begs the question, why does Spotify want access to your microphone?
Why does Spotify want access to your microphone?
It’s hard to imagine why exactly Spotify might start trying to utilize your phone’s microphone for more than just receiving voice commands. Here are a few reasons why Spotify uses your mic:
1. Voice control
Spotify needs access to your phone’s microphone to make its hand-free voice assistant work.
The feature has been rolled out on both its Android and iOS apps since 2021.
Once enabled, you can say “Hey Spotify” to search for artists, songs, playlists, and podcasts. You can also ask Spotify to pause your tunes, skip tracks, or add a song as a favorite.
2. Give you song recommendations
Spotify has been granted a patent on using your phone’s microphone to analyze the sounds around you. The purpose is to give you the best song recommendations.
Spotify first applied for the patent back in 2018, but it wasn’t awarded until 2021. The patent is titled: “Identification of taste attributes from an audio signal.” Here’s a copy of the patent.
The technology would listen for environmental noises through your phone’s microphone, determine where you are, and give you song recommendations based on your location.
For example, it can listen to vehicles on the street so it knows you’re in a car ride. Or, it can listen to phones ringing and printers whirring so it knows you’re at the office.
it would also listen in on your specific voice to analyze your emotional mood (which raises privacy concerns, btw) and give you the perfect song whether you’re happy or sad.
3. Serve you targeted ads
In addition to song recommendations, no doubt Spotify will also serve you targeted ads.
Inside the technology patent, it said that Spotify would be able to pick up on the “intonation, stress, rhythm, and the likes of units of speech” from Spotify users’ voices.
This allows Spotify to get metadata like your gender, age, accent, and mood. Then, Spotify would use this information to better recommend ads based on what you like.
Spotify has started testing voice-enabled ads on a small number of free subscribers in the US. If you’re a free user on Spotify, you may hear an ad that asks you to respond verbally.
With machine learning thrown into the mix, it’s easy to imagine myriad privacy concerns.
4. Work in collaboration with other digital assistants
If you are using a smartwatch to access Spotify, then Spotify would require access to your phone’s microphone in order to browse the app on the smartwatch.
I had no idea Spotify needed the microphone to work with other digital assistants until I got my new Samsung Galaxy Watch. I contacted Spotify and asked for an explanation.
According to Spotify support, the Spotify app needs the microphone permission to use Bixby (a virtual assistant that makes it easier to use your phone) functionality.
Without the microphone permissions, Spotify did not let me browse libraries.
Does Spotify have voice control?
Spotify’s voice control feature is only available to Premium users inside the United States. If your account is not registered in the US, you won’t see any option to activate the microphone.
The “Hey Spotify” feature was in the testing phase.
Developer teams were testing how well it worked and how usable it was on average. This feature is now gone, but it will most likely pave the way for something that works better.
However, even if you don’t have access to the voice control feature, the Spotify app may still have access to your microphone. This is true whether you are using Android or iOS.
Does Spotify listen to your conversations?
Spotify listens to your conversations. According to Spotify’s legal page, your voice input will be sent to Spotify including audio recordings and transcripts of what you say.
While Spotify claims that the app will only begin recording your voice after you say the wake word or tap the microphone icon, there have been privacy concerns over the app.
If you’re uncomfortable with Spotify having control of your phone’s mic, you can always disable Android or iOS microphone access for the app, or simply turn off the “Hey Spotify” functionality.
How to disable Spotify’s access to your microphone
If you have never received a pop-up, chances are the Spotify app already has access to your microphone and that all depends on your phone’s settings.
You can disable Spotify’s voice control feature from the app if your account is registered in the United States. But if you live somewhere else, you can disable it from your phone’s settings.
How to disallow Spotify microphone permission on Android
- Go to Settings on your phone.
- Select Apps.
- Select Spotify from the list of apps.
- Under App settings, select Permissions.
- Turn the toggle off for Microphone.
How to disallow Spotify microphone permission on iOS
- Go to Settings on your iPhone.
- Select Privacy.
- Select Microphone.
- You’ll see a list of every app that has access to your microphone.
- Find Spotify, and turn the toggle off.
You can also prevent microphone access when you install the Spotify app for the first time. The app may ask for microphone access. Make sure you select “Don’t Allow.”