Bose, the high-end headphone company, has been tracking and distributing customers’ data without their knowledge, according to a new class-action lawsuit.
Bose Connect app:
The complaint, which was filed late Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, claims that the headphone company’s Bose Connect app not only pairs wireless headphones with the music in their devices, but it also connects the user’s entire listening history with third-party data mining companies
The lawsuit says that a person’s music and podcast listening history can likely reveal personal and identifying details. For example, according to the lawsuit, if a user listens to a Muslim prayer service, it is likely the individual is Muslim, also other potentially revealing information such as health concerns or sexual orientation could be collected from the data.
The main plaintiff in the class-action suit is Kyle Zak, who bought the headphones for $350, is represented by attorney Chris Dore, from the firm Edelson PC. Dore said to NBC News that Bose’s customers were never informed about the data mining.
Dore said: “One of the issues raised by this lawsuit is that it’s not clear what’s happening. The danger with undisclosed and unexplained data collection is, the world is open to these companies to do what they want.”
Bose broke several federal and state laws including the Federal Wiretap Act, the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute, and consumer fraud and invasion of privacy laws, according to the lawsuit. It is demanding that Bose destroy all user data collected, and it states that damages would likely exceed $5 million.
Bose’s website contains a number of regulatory and compliance documents, but the Bose Connect app does not appear to be referred to.
Increase in data mining lawsuits:
Data-mining lawsuits have increased dramatically recently, as more and more companies have been gaining intimate user data through websites, apps, and Bluetooth-enabled devices, which is referred to sometimes as the Internet of Things.
Mississippi Attorney General sued Google last January over “unclear” policies concerning collecting the students’ search histories and personal information. Lawsuits over user privacy have even hit sex toy companies. In2016, Edelson sued adult product manufacturer Standard Innovation claiming that the company’s We-Vibe app collected especially sensitive user data.
Data mining lawsuits are “something you’re going to see a lot more of,” said Dore.
He added: “Some devices are more obvious than others about data collection, but your headphone is not an obvious concern. You’re sitting in your house listening to a podcast about politics or religion, and you don’t think that information is going to leave your headphones and go to a third party.”
The lawsuit claims that the user listening information collected by the Bose Connect app is shared with a data collection and analysis firm called Segment. On Segment’s website the phrase “Collect all of your customer data and send it anywhere” is prominent on its main page.
Corporate mining of user data can be exploited, according to Dore. The user clicks on “agree” on a lengthy, complex form with fine print that says the company can share or sell user data, afterwards, it’s hard to tell how many times, and with whom, that data will be shared.
He continued: “Data collection is a relative black hole at this point. Once you lose control of it, it can go to ten more companies and you won’t know.”