Spotify's new privacy policy made the internet mad for no reason. Here's how to prevent that.

Aug 21, 2015 11:33:00 AM

On the web, perception is reality.

Even if it's misguided, it's always difficult for companies to backpedal and mitigate web-generated outrage. Popular UK-based streaming music service Spotify found this out the hard way recently, after releasing an updated privacy policy that allows the company to access more of users' personal data. The policy reads:

"With your permission, we may collect information stored on your mobile device, such as contacts, photos, or media files. Local law may require that you seek the consent of your contacts to provide their personal information to Spotify, which may use that information for the purposes specified in this Privacy Policy."

Wired was the first site to jump all over Spotify's terms — calling them "eerie." But as The Verge explains, Spotify's terms aren't all that nefarious in context. Founder Michael Ek took to Twitter to explain that the terms coincide with an app update that will allow users to update profiles with pictures, and other things similar to that. 

But, for Spotify, the cat was already out of the bag. Many customers have already seen headlines of nefarious terms, and are threatening to leave the service. 

Spotify now has an unnecessary PR crisis on their hands — one that could have been mitigated with a little more clarity. It begs the question, "If I have to update my terms in a way that might be viewed negatively by consumers, how should I break the news to them?" Here's three tips:

1. Be first, honest, and forthright.

Think of your terms update as "breaking news." Put it in the face of users everywhere. Make sure they get an e-mail. The lack of clarity and transparency from Spotify up front allowed Wired to create the first widely seen and consumed interpretation of the update — which already put Spotify well behind the 8-ball.

2. Provide an update summary via email — and make it easy to digest.

Legalese sucks for the average consumer — they won't read it. Write a quick "summary of updates" in an email blast that goes to all users, and write it in a conversational, easy-to-understand tone. Use bullet points. Don't go too in-depth. Provide the necessary information, make it easy to digest, quickly and efficiently.

3. Provide context.

This was Spotify's cardinal sin in this privacy policy update. Why are you updating your terms? It looks much less "eerie" if there's a reason the service will start pulling such data — such as a coming app update that will permit pictures. Explain this to consumers. While they still might not like the extra eyeballs peering into their data, they're much more likely to understand the update if they get how the data will be used.

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Kyle Robbins

Written by Kyle Robbins