US headphone maker Bose is facing a $5m lawsuit for spying on its customers by using an app to gather data such as clients’ listening habits and deliver that information to third parties. That data also includes songs listened to, their length and when they were played.
The complainant, Kyle Zak, wants a banning order preventing Bose from interfering with people's privacy. He also wants other Bose users to join his lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by the US citizen who claims that the app broke federal wiretap laws, local wiretapping statute and fraud laws. According to US media, an app called Bose Connects collects these records and routes them to a data mining firm which advertises that it can “collect all of your customer data and send it anywhere”. The complainant, however, was not sure what happens to the information but argues it is “valuable” to Bose.
It is believed the app makes the headphones more useful with the ability to customise the level of noise cancellation but collects information about how users use the device, such as music and audio choices, without their knowledge.
An extract from the complaint reads: “Though the data collected from its customers’ smartphones is undoubtedly valuable to the company, Defendant’s conduct demonstrates a wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights and violates numerous state and federal laws.”
The lawsuit reads: "Plaintiff Zak would never have purchased his Bose Wireless Product had he known that Defendant would use Bose Connect (which was necessary to access the product's full array of functions and features) to collect, transmit and disclose his media Information."
The lawsuit also claims that the kind of music listened to by users can be highly revealing and would tell data miners more information than one might like.
Wireless headphones are experiencing massive sales compared to non-wireless devices. In the US, a pair of Bose headphones costs between $350 and $400, while in South Africa a set ranges from $400 to $500. Considering this latest development, the manufacturer is likely to experience a deficit in sales. The implications of what has been called the ‘spy-tunes’ scandal for Africa are yet unknown, although information from Bose users on the continent may have been gathered if the allegations are true.