Security

Bose Headphones ‘Spies’ On Users Listening Habits

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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Shutting out the world by listening to Ed Sheeran? Lawsuit claims Bose app tracks our musical habits

A lawsuit filed in Chicago alleges that popular headphone maker Bose violates the privacy of its users, and it is seeking an injunction and damages against the firm.

The complaint centres around the app that is often used in conjunction with Bose wireless headphones (such as the QuietComfort 35).

Bose SoundLink Bluetooth On-Ear Headphone

Spying Headphones?

The complaint was filed on Tuesday in the US District Court, Northern District of Illinois by Kyle Zak, and alleges that users are spied on when listening to music or podcasts.

Zak explained how he was encouraged to use the Bose Connect app, for which he gave his name, email address, and headphone serial number.

However he then discovered that Bose allegedly made detailed profiles of his listening history and habits. He said this is a violation of the US WireTap Act, as well as local Illinois laws against eavesdropping and consumer fraud.

And Zak also alleges that Bose is selling this music data without permission to third parties including a data mining company, without his knowledge or consent.

“People should be uncomfortable with it,” Christopher Dore, a lawyer representing Zak, was reported as saying in an interview with Reuters. “People put headphones on their head because they think it’s private, but they can be giving out information they don’t want to share.”

Bose has yet to respond to requests for comment.

Zak believes that a person’s audio selections, “including music, radio broadcast, Podcast, and lecture choices – provide an incredible amount of insight into his or her personality, behaviour, political views, and personal identity.”

He pointed out for example that if a person listens to Muslim prayers, he or she might “very likely” be a Muslim, the complaint said.

The lawsuit is seeking at least $5 million in damages and a halt to the data collection.

Privacy Awareness

The legal action against Bose highlights the growing awareness of the need to protect our privacy in an increasingly connected world.

Earlier this month, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, slammed the assault on privacy by governments around the world.

The US House of Representatives has for example recently overturned a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule that required internet service providers (ISPs) to obtain permission before sharing the web browsing history of their customers with third party companies.

Quiz: What do you know about privacy?