'Wholesale disregard for customers' privacy': Bose Corp sued over spying headphone app

Posted April 20, 2017

Bose then allegedly sends its customers' private information and listening data to a third party data-mining company, Segment.io Inc., which is not a party to the lawsuit.

Zak is reportedly seeking millions of dollars in damages not only for himself but also for other buyers of headphones and speakers of various Bose models, including QuietComfort 35, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, SoundLink Color II, SoundSport Wireless and SoundSport Pulse Wireless.

Bose has been accused of collecting customers' listening data using its headphones and selling it on to third-parties without users' knowledge.

The lawsuit asserts that Bose's data collection policy "demonstrates a wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights and violates numerous state and federal laws", including a federal law governing wiretapping and unfair business practices laws of IL.

"Indeed, one's personal audio selections - including music, radio broadcast, Podcast, and lecture choices - provide an incredible amount of insight into his or her personality, behavior, political views, and personal identity", according to an excerpt of the lawsuit printed by the CEPro website. 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.

Zak is seeking to represent other headphone owners over allegations of illegal data mining.

Connect's licensing agreement on iTunes notes that use of the app also operates as the user's consent to "the collection, transmission, and storage of certain standard networking information, device usage data, and Bose product information via the internet to servers owned or controlled by Bose or operated by third parties on behalf of Bose".

"Defendant programmed its Bose Connect app to continuously record the contents of the electronic communications that users send to their Bose Wireless Products from their smartphones...together with the Bose Wireless Product's serial numbers", the complaint states. It also seeks an injunction to force Bose to stop the alleged data collection.

Zak states that he filed the lawsuit against the app because it is not advertised as a media player app but instead as one that connects users with extra settings on their Bose products like an Auto-Off feature that saves battery life and noise cancellation settings.

When interviewed, a lawyer for Zak said, "People should be uncomfortable with it. 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 Corp. was founded in 1964 by Indian American Amar Bose.

Bose did not respond to a request for comment from Bleeping Computer in time for this article's publication. The Framingham, Mass. -based company has said annual sales top $3.5 billion.