Bose accused of tracking customer data through wireless headphones

Everyone has an embarrassing playlist on their phone they don’t want anyone else hearing. Maybe it’s Hanson’s “MMMBop” or the extended cast recording of “Avenue Q.” Either way, it’s private. But a new lawsuit is alleging that Bose is “improperly collecting and sharing information about users” who own certain wireless headphones made by the brand.

The complaint was filed last month in Illinois. Among other things, it alleges that when owners of the Bose wireless headsets use the Bose Connect app on their smartphones, it harvests the data about the songs and transmits it (along with other information) to third parties.

If true, this is a massive breach of privacy. The lawsuit claims that the collection and sharing of data has occurred without user permission, and the entire situation is a “wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights.”

The plaintiff claims that the Bose Connect app is optimized 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,” according to the lawsuit.

Flickr | SimpleSkye

The serial number of the wireless product is a crucially important part of the lawsuit. This is because if a customer has registered their wireless product with Bose, then the company can collect all the skimmed audio data along with the personal data needed to register the process. This includes the customer’s name, email address and phone number.

The lawsuit alleges that one of the third parties who receives these data scrapings from the Bose Connect App is the company Segment.io. The Segment.io homepage even says “collect all of your customer data and send it anywhere.”

Because the Bose Connect app was allegedly designed to “contemporaneously and secretly collect” a user’s information and send it to a third party, the lawsuit claims that the company has violated the Federal Wiretap Act.

“No party to the electronic communications alleged herein consented to [Bose’s] collection, interception, use, or disclosure of the contents of the electronic communications,” the complaint states. According to the lawsuit, Bose customers weren’t even given the option to consent to having their data accessed.

“This case shows the new world we are all living in,” Jay Edelson of Edelson PC, the firm representing the plaintiffs in this potential class action, told Consumerist. “Consumers went to buy headphones and were transformed into profit centers for data miners.”

About the Author

Jessica Suss

An aspiring food and health writer, native Chicagoan, and nut butter enthusiast. Jessica is also the creator of BiteMeBlog, but don't call her a foodie More.

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