Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Are Your Headphones Spying on You?

People were fairly creeped out when they discovered their smart TVs were tracking viewing data and could even be hacked to record video and sound wherever the television is located. But it's not just your TV you need to worry about.

A recent lawsuit claims Bose's wireless headphones use an app to track the music, podcasts, and other audio customers listen to, and the company then sells that information without permission. So is it illegal for your headphones to listen to what you're listening to?

Easy Listening

According to user Kyle Zak's lawsuit, the Bose Connect app for its wireless headphones collects personal information about the user such as name, phone number, and email address, and then creates "detailed profiles about its users and their music listening histories and habits." Bose is accused of then sharing that information with marketing companies.

The lawsuit claims such listener information can "provide an incredible amount of insight into his or her personality, behavior, political views, and personal identity":

In fact, numerous scientific studies show that musical preferences reflect explicit characteristics such as age, personality, and values, and can likely even be used to identify people with autism spectrum conditions. And that's just a small sampling of what can be learned from one's music preferences. When it comes to other types of audio tracks, the personality, values, likes, dislikes, and preferences of the listener are more self-evident. 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.

Spying Statutes

Zak filed the suit as a class action on behalf of other Bose users and accuses Bose of violating federal wiretap laws as well as state eavesdropping statutes. Until the suit is resolved, maybe avoid sharing personal info through the app if you don't want it ending up in marketers' or hackers' hands.

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