Is free music worth your privacy?

telemarketer Is free music worth your privacy?

Facebook can be a very amusing place if you like me like to see stuff crash and burn. You will never find a bigger collection of grammatical errors, emo personal statements, useless trivia or technological misunderstandings. That’s why I knew it would be one of those days when I saw one of my “friends” post a link to a site that promised free Spotify premium memberships to Scandinavians- As I’m a month away from having a Bachelor’s degree in economics I know better than many people that “free” is a relative term. After further investigation into how this whole site operates, it became very clear that this was also the case here.

So what happens when you sign up on this site? Well, you either have to complete a survey, or invite 6 friends. A survey shouldn’t take you long you think and click your way through, where you’re met by a number of questions and a field at the end where it asks for your name, address, phone number and email address. To be sure no-one enters false information, the site actually checks if your address is correct and the same goes for the phone number- which is an easy thing to do since all such information is public in Scandinavia. What most people don’t bother reading though, is the terms. Those terms, cleverly hidden as a simple link in the text, states that by entering this survey, you agree to get newsletters from no less than four companies. You also agree than an unspecified amount of “partners” can contact you via phone, email, SMS and “other electronic means”, even if your phone number is reserved against such use. To top it all up, you agree that one last telemarketing service can contact you via phone, just in case those other 328746343 companies that now have ALL your contact information left you with a few extra minutes.

I had to shake my head when I read that and thought about all the idiots who blindly enter their information into anything that asks for it, and then wonders why their phone is ringing 24/7 with some telemarketer wanting to chat. A Spotify Premium subscription is about $15 a month, and to get that one month free you just told half the marketing companies in Scandinavia to contact you whenever they want to. If you selected to invite 6 friends instead, even better! More people that will give away their information freely. So to all of you who come across such an offer and wonder what the catch is, here it is. Ironically, one of the differences between Spotify free and Spotify premium is the lack of ads in the premium version, and to get that you just signed up for ten times the amount of ads via phone and email. Is it a scam? Technically no, you’re agreeing to everything they do, but I can certainly think of more honorable business models. So I ask you all, is free music worth your privacy?

UPDATE: A representative from Spotify contacted us to make sure we knew that they were not in any way affiliated with the site in question and are taking steps to do something about it. I already knew that, but in case it wasn’t clear from the article; this is an independent site that operates outside Spotify itself, and is in no way affiliated with Spotify.


Theory on May 4, 2010 2:20 PM

Personally, my privacy is worth more than music. But when thinking about the policy overall, my first thought was to set marginal cost equal to marginal benefit. It becomes a shady business practice when the company intentionally obfuscates the true costs so that people don’t understand the full costs and do the deal even though their MB is less than the MC. However, I suppose for some who have a low value for their privacy (or perhaps a very high value for music), MB could be greater MC and for whom this would be a good deal. Furthermore, this implies that the marginal benefit of privacy must be less than the 15 dollar subscription fee for those who do this transaction. In all likelihood it is far less than 15 dollars because of the net increase in advertisements you pointed out.

SwanlakeRee on May 4, 2010 4:46 PM

yeah i agree with this. but when i encounter those kinds of websites with surveys, i just use opera to edit the source and just get out of the survey :)

Fecal-Face on May 4, 2010 5:12 PM

Reminds me of those sites that say “FREE *insert popular device here*”. They eventually do give you the item (i think..), but to GET the item, you have to fill out a lot – usually about a dozen – “offers”, which are mostly signing up for magazines, accounts on various websites, all/most of which have a monthly fee, and require your personal information like address, email, etc.I guess if you really don’t care who has your email / address / phone number / etc, and didn’t mind paying for a dozen monthly subscriptions to random companies, then you could get a “free” product.So you’re right, “free” is a very relative term. :P

Uh-huh? on May 4, 2010 9:47 PM

If “free” is relative, than what becomes of “worth”? After all, “free” can be construed as a type of “worth” (or “value”). Would you rather have your phone ringing 24-7 or you sitting in jail without a phone at all? Well, is free music worth your privacy?

ash on May 5, 2010 4:22 AM

Good that you did take you’r time to investigate that for us. Nice to see some life come out of this site.. write more and update more often!

Jaigoda on May 5, 2010 11:08 AM

Who wants a near weightless player? I don’t know, maybe people that excersize, or that have activities/jobs that require a player light enough that it won’t break when it falls? If you use higher quality materials, you raise the price of the player. Something like the Clip+ would be pointless if it cost $80-$100 because they made it out of brushed aluminum and glass and such. Sure, if the player’s already 300 bucks, you probably should use some high quality materials; most do. But for cheap players that are specifically aiming for the budget buyers, the “Sandisk Clip” range is exactly what a player SHOULD be.

Jaigoda on May 5, 2010 11:26 AM

Oops, disregard the above comment. My browser is going crazy and I pasted the wrong thing.

abolishcopyright on May 16, 2010 10:02 AM

We should just abolish copyright law, which is an outdated government-induced monopoly on our right to communicate freely. Conventional models for funding music allow the middle-men to starve our artists and make us all into “infringers” for wanting to actually USE these expensive electronics that all of us here enjoy.I want mp3 players that let me transfer songs to my friends’ players! When I pay for downloads (which I will continue to do without copyright, for convenience’s sake and to give money directly to the artists I like), I want them to work on all my devices and I want to be able to share them or incorporate them into my own creative works (video, mostly).If we get rid of copyright and DRM nonsense then we won’t have these bastards trying to scam our personal information in exchange for the “legal ability” to appreciate music.

John on December 21, 2010 7:31 PM

I have completed the surveys and everything they wanted. Now after more than two months it still says “we’re terrible busy because we’re so popular blah blah” and I’m pretty sure by now that is a scam.

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