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PRIVACY

Austria privacy activists file suit against streaming sites

An Austrian privacy campaign group lodged complaints against eight online streaming services Friday, accusing them of "structural violations" of EU data regulations that came into effect last year.

Austria privacy activists file suit against streaming sites
Privacy campaigner Max Schrems. Photo: AFP

NOYB, a non-profit organisation whose name means None Of Your Business, said it had filed a complaint with Austria's Data Protection Authority against services including Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime and Spotify.

NOYB says the services have violated the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by not granting users access to data that companies hold on them or information about how the data is used.

Privacy campaigner Max Schrems, one of the founders of NOYB, said the issue of access to such data was one of the most common reasons people got in touch with the NGO.

On Netflix, for example, “you can figure out a lot about someone's personal behaviour and even political leanings from the data they have — what you're watching, the times of day you're watching, who you're watching it with,” 
Schrems told AFP.

NOYB tested the provisions of the GDPR by asking eight major streaming services for access to data. 

It said two failed to respond and the rest did not provide the data in an intelligible format nor gave additional background information that users are also entitled to.

“The 'front ends' of these websites look nice, welcoming and compliant but really the data is stored in the 'back ends' — we want to bring more transparency to these data 'black boxes',” Schrems said.

In theory, the EU's data regulations provide for heavy financial penalties for companies who break them. 

Schrems has previously brought cases against Facebook and other tech firms in several European countries.

In 2015 he brought down the EU's former “Safe Harbour” data sharing arrangement after he sued Facebook in Ireland over the transfer of personal information by Facebook from Europe to the United States.

BUSINESS

Spotify posts net loss of 430 million euros – but beats expectations

Swedish music streaming giant Spotify reports deepening losses, but for the first time climbed past 200 million paying subscribers.

Spotify posts net loss of 430 million euros – but beats expectations

The Swedish company, which last week announced it was cutting almost six percent of its workforce to reduce costs, posted a net loss of 430 million euros ($465 million) for the year.

Analysts had forecast a loss of 441 million euros, according to Factset.

Revenue for the full-year also slightly beat forecasts, coming in at 11.7 billion euros or a rise of 21 percent from a year earlier.

The number of paying subscribers climbed by 14 percent to 205 million, beating analysts’ expectations of 202 million, which the group attributed to strong growth in all regions, especially in Latin America.

It is the first time Spotify has surpassed 200 million paying subscribers.

Among other things, the company said it had benefited from promotional campaigns, a strong holiday season, and robust growth among Gen Z users.

The total number of monthly users, including subscribers using the free version, totalled 489 million at the end of the year and should hit the 500 million mark in 2023, Spotify said.

The platform, based in Stockholm but listed in New York, has only occasionally posted a quarterly profit since its launch.

It has regularly posted annual losses, despite strong subscriber growth and having had a headstart on its rivals such as Apple Music and Amazon Music.

Spotify founder and chief executive Daniel Ek last week announced the group was cutting around 600 jobs, out of around 10,000, following other similar moves by tech industry giants.

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