Published: Thu, April 20, 2017
Electronics | By Lorenzo Hawkins

Headphone maker Bose accused of spying on listeners

Headphone maker Bose accused of spying on listeners

Unbeknownst to its customers, however, Defendant [Bose] designed Bose Connect to (i) collect and record the titles of the music and audio files its customers chose to play through their Bose wireless products and (ii) transmit such data along with other personal identifiers to third parties - including a data miner - without its customers' knowledge or consent. He immediately registered his product and downloaded the Bose Connect app onto his smartphone to access the headphone's full array of features.

The lawsuit does not note how Zak found the Connect app to be collecting such data, nor does it provide any proof related to how much data Bose provides to Segment.

According to the complaint [PDF] filed yesterday in a federal court in IL, when owners of Bose wireless headsets use the Bose Connect app on their smartphones, it collects the information about the songs you listen to and allegedly transmits this data - along with other identifying information - to third parties.

While users are listening to their headphones, their headphones are essentially eavesdropping on them, the lawsuit alleges.

Zak learned that "all available media information" had been sent from his smartphone to third-party companies.

The privacy policy does not describe how Bose collects that data, though, nor does it specify if a user's listening data counts as "non-personal" information.

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Bose did not respond on Wednesday to requests for comment on the proposed class action case.

Audio choices offer "an incredible amount of insight" into customers' personalities, behavior, politics and religious views, citing as an example that a person who listens to Muslim prayers might "very likely" be a Muslim, the complaint said.

According to Jay Edelson, the privacy lawyer who filed the Bose lawsuit, companies should not be able to help themselves to consumer data just because they can. It claims that Bose created detailed profiles of users' listening habits and shared them with marketing companies, such as San Francisco-based Segment. If the complaint is certified as a class action, it would apply to all users who may have had their data collected by the Connect app. Zak is seeking to end the alleged collection altogether by saying it violates the federal Wiretap Act, along with a variety of IL state privacy laws.

Zak is seeking millions of dollars in damages to be dispersed among buyers of Bose's QuietComfort 35, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, SoundLink Color II, SoundSport Wireless, and SoundSport Pulse Wireless.

Zak said that he paid $350 for his QuietConnect 35 headphones by Bose and was asked to download the company's free app in order to get the most out of his headphones. When it comes other types of audio tracks, the personality, values, likes, dislikes, and preferences of the listener are more self-evident.

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