Spotify Is Testing An Emergency Alert System in Sweden—Another Massive Shift from Traditional Media

Spotify testing emergency alert system
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Spotify testing emergency alert system
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Photo Credit: Anders Jildén

Spotify appears to be testing an emergency alerts system in its home country of Sweden. An app reverse engineer found references to an emergency alert system in the latest build of the Spotify app.

Reverse engineer Chris Messina first discovered the code references, positing that an emergency alerts system would push Spotify users to enable alerts. Spotify later confirmed to TechCrunch that it is working on such a system, but provided no explanation on why it is delving into the world of emergency alerts. There is no Swedish law requiring the app to have such a capability, with Spotify telling TechCrunch that it is “exploring whether or not the app could support something like an emergency alerts system.”

Several apps have features to alert others of your status during an emergency. Meta’s Safety Check feature is the most notable, though Google also leverages its position to alert users of disasters like earthquakes. According to the code references found in the latest Spotify update by Messina, some of the references to emergency alerts include:

  • “emergency alerts in Sweden”
  • “Receive public emergency alerts”
  • “Important public announcement, IPA, is the system used to alert the public in Sweden in the case of accidents, serious events, or disruptions of important services”
  • “Visit the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency site for more information”

Spotify says it is only conducting this test in Sweden for now and that the feature is part of its testing to “improve our user experience.” Spotify adds that it’s some testing paves “the way for our broader user experience while most serve only as an important learning.”

The topic of emergency alerts in video and music streaming apps has come up in the past in the United States. In 2018, The Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement Act introduced by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Senator John Thune (R-SD) sought to create a commission to research the feasibility of requiring online streaming services to distribute emergency alerts—much like traditional mediums of television and radio.

The bill was passed by the Senate on September 24, 2020—but failed in the U.S. House chamber. Despite that, the legislation could serve as a model for another bill, or re-introduced in another session of Congress as part of a new omnibus bill that encompasses multiple aspects emergency alert legislation. The conversation around AM radio and its use as an emergency alert system is still an ongoing topic in Congress.