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Happy 420, Don’t Freak Out, Your Headphones Are Maybe Spying On You

A lawsuit filed in Chicago on Thursday alleges that Bose has been collecting data on its users and selling it off to third parties.

by Alex Robert Ross
Apr 20 2017, 2:04pm

Audio equipment manufacturer Bose has allegedly been collecting information on the listening habits of its customers and selling the data off to third parties, per a lawsuit filed in Chicago on Thursday. Happy 420, don't freak out.

The plaintiff in the case is Kyle Zak, who followed the company's advice and downloaded the Bose Connect app, something that promises to "enhance your experience" of the headphones but seems to mostly just check your heart rate. Zak provided his name, phone number, and email address when he signed up. The complaint claims that Bose Connect was specifically designed to "collect and record the titles of the music and audio files" from its customers—that's songs, podcasts, lectures, anything—and then transmit them to third parties, including a data miner.

This alleged activity could break a host of laws, including the Wiretap Act, the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute, and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act. Also, the complaint asks whether Bose's alleged activity "constitutes an intrusion upon seclusion," which sounds like a Creed song.

The complaint goes on, in great detail, to explain why this is not just a breach of privacy, but a potentially dangerous overreach. A person's listening habits "provide an incredible amount of insight into his or her personality, behavior, political views, and personal identity," the complaint reads. "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." Also, a person who listens to the new Chainsmokers record more than twice is probably a shithead.

The suit says that the case is worth upwards of $5 million, but it's unclear what Zak is asking for in damages.

Last year, researchers in Israel found out that headphones could be hacked and used to spy on their users. Last month, sex toy manufacturer We-Vibe settled a case after it emerged they'd been collecting and selling data on their customers through their internet-connected vibrators.

Everything is fine.

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