Lawsuit Alleges Bose Connect Headphone App Spies On Users And Mines Personal Data

QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones
Some audiophiles poke fun at Bose for being more about branding than actual substance, but the latest accusation leveled against the company is by no means a laughing matter. The Boston-based company is coming under fire — in the form of a class-action lawsuit — for its Bose Connect app, which is used to help easily pair your headphones or speakers with an iOS or Android device.

Bose Connect also allows you to update the firmware on your Bose products and quickly adjust headphone settings. However, as an intermediary between your Bose headphones/speakers and your mobile device, it also potentially has access to data about music, movies, or even podcasts that you listen too. This is where Bose is getting into trouble, according to the lawsuit.

Plaintiff Kyle Zak alleges that this collection of data is being done without the consent of customers, and more damaging, that the data is being sent to third-parties (including data miners the suit alleges); likely in an effort for Bose to profit from its customers’ listening habits. The suit goes on to say that this is a “wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights” and is in violation of state and federal laws.

The suit goes on to explain that collecting data on a person’s listening habits allows Bose to build a pretty good profile on its customers’ “personality, behavior, political views, and personal identity.”

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. None of Defendant’s customers could have ever anticipated that these types of music and audio selections would be recorded and sent to, of all people, a third-party data miner for analysis.

It should be noted that Bose Connect isn’t required to use your headphones or speakers, but it does offer advantages like being able to “easily connect and switch between multiple mobile devices.”

SoundSport Pulse wireless headphones

At this time, the suit alleges that Bose QuietComfort 35, SoundSport Wireless, Sound Sport Pulse Wireless, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, and SoundLink Color II products are capable of spying on customers with the Bose Connect app. The app is able to “continuously record the contents of the electronic communications that users send to their Bose Wireless Products from their smartphones, including the names of the music and audio tracks they select to play along with the corresponding artist and album information, together with the Bose Wireless Product’s serial numbers.”

When this audio data is matched up with serial numbers and a customer’s registration information (including email address), a complete personal profile can be created that adds a lucrative revenue stream for Bose. Data mining and analyst company is fingered as one of companies that Bose has contracted with to offload this customer data. In addition to never gaining consent from customers to partake in these questionable activities, the suit also claims that Bose took steps to hide this activity as to not raise suspicions.

The lawsuit alleges that value of this cased exceeds $5,000,000, though damages are not specified.

Tags:  Bose