A lawsuit alleges a Bose app secretly collects and shares everything its headphone users listen to – Business Insider


bose quietcomfort 35
The Bose QuietComfort 35
noise-cancelling headphones.

Business
Insider/Jeff Dunn


An Illinois man is suing headphone giant Bose for allegedly
collecting and sharing its users’ listening data in secret.

Fortune first reported on the lawsuit.

A man named Kyle Zak filed the complaint in federal court in
Chicago on Tuesday night. At the center of the lawsuit is
Bose’s Connect app, which is marketed as an
optional companion to a handful of the headphone maker’s newer
headphones and speakers, including its acclaimed QuietComfort 35 noise-cancelling
headphones.

Bose says the Connect app is meant to adjust
noise-cancellation, more quickly manage connected audio devices,
and view other settings.

But Zak and Chicago-based law firm Edelson
PC
, which specializes in cases involving technology and
consumer privacy, claim the Connect app also “intercepted and
collected all available Media Information” from Zak’s smartphone,
every time it was opened, after Zak paired the app with his pair
of QuietComfort 35s.


bose soundlink around ear bluetooth headphonesBose

Zak alleges that Bose collected the titles and general info for
every song, podcast, or other audio file he listened to when
paired with the app, then transmitted that data to “third
parties.” The lawsuit specifically mentions Segment, a Bay Area
software company that collects customer data and helps route it
for analytics and marketing firms, as one alleged recipient of
the information claimed to be taken by the Connect app.

The lawsuit alleges that Bose did not inform Zak that it would
collect and share such data. The Connect app’s latest license agreement does note that it
“may collect, transmit, and store” various pieces of customer
data to “servers operated by third parties on behalf of Bose,”
but does not specifically mention collection of audio file data.

The app’s privacy policy gets a
little more specific, noting that Bose “may partner with certain
third parties” to collect “non-personal information” and “to
engage in analysis, auditing, research, and reporting.” Bose
specifically mentions Segment in the policy as of this writing,
and says partnering with such companies allows it to “better
control data from the app and direct it to third-party analytics
providers.” 

The privacy policy is vague about
potential collection of a user’s audio file data, however,
and it doesn’t specify if it’d consider such data “non-personal”
information. It does say Bose’s third-party partners “may use
SDKs or other tracking mechanisms to collect information from the
app and from your device,” though. 

In any case, the lawsuit says that tracking a user’s listening
habits could enable Bose to create “detailed profiles” of its
users, since it could feasibly collect their names and email
addresses during signup, and tie that information to a product’s
serial number as well.

“For example, a person that listens to Muslim prayer services
through his headphones or speakers is very likely a Muslim, a
person that listens to the ‘Ashamed, Confused, And In the Closet
Podcast’ is very likely a homosexual in need of a support system,
and a person that listens to ‘The Body’s HIV/AIDS Podcast’ is
very likely an individual that has been diagnosed and is living
with HIV or AIDS,” the lawsuit reads.

That said, the Connect app’s privacy
policy currently states
that data collected through the app “is not used to create
user profiles for behavioral advertising or similar
purposes.”


segment
A screenshot of Segment’s
website.

Segment

The lawsuit says the “amount in controversy” exceeds $5 million,
but does not give an exact amount it is seeking in damages. 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 Illinois state privacy laws.

Neither Bose nor Segment responded to requests for comment.

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. 

Christopher Dore, an Edelson lawyer representing Zak, told
Business Insider that the law firm had “computer forensics
experts” look into and discover the matter. Dore said Bose is the
first headphone company Edelson has found to collect such data.
He also said the firm did not reach out to Bose or Edelson before
the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is just the latest in a string privacy-related legal complaints have had in an increasingly
connected tech landscape. Those concerns may only intensify
when it comes to headphones, a market that’s expected to
integrate more and more “smart” data processing features in the
coming years.

The lawsuit also comes a month after another lawsuit accused Bose of
duplicitous business practices with California headphone startup
Doppler Labs.

Bose, a privately held company, had annual revenues of $3.5
billion in 2015
according to Forbes.

You can see the full complaint below:

A lawsuit alleges a Bose app secretly collects and shares everything its headphone users listen to – Business Insider