The complaint was filed this week by Kyle Zak in a federal court in Chicago, USA. Mr Zak recently bought a pair of QuietComfort 35 headphones and then downloaded the accompanying Bose Connect app.
This app allows the customer to take advantage of all the features of Bose audio products, such as noise cancellation and software updates.
During the registration process, customers are asked for their name, email address and headphone serial number. However, the customer is not notified that the app monitors and collects information about tracks being played in real time or that this media information is passed on to a third party.
According to the complaint, the choice of music and audio exposes aspects of a customer’s life: “One’s personal audio selections – including music, radio broadcast, podcast and lecture choices – provide an incredible amount of insight into his or her personality, behaviour, political views and personal identity […] None of defendant’s customers could have ever anticipated that these types of music and audio selections would be recorded and sent to, of all people, a third-party data miner for analysis.”
Bose is accused of sending all available media information to third parties such as Segment.io, a data miner, which boasts being able to “collect all of your customer data and send it anywhere”.
The complaint claims that Bose has demonstrated “wholesale disregard” for customer privacy. It stands accused of violating the Federal Wiretap Act, the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act. Mr Zak is seeking $5m in damages and an injunction to stop Bose’s customer data collection.
According to Christopher Dore, who is representing Mr Zak, said people ought to feel “uncomfortable” about the practice: “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.”
This is the latest incidence of a tech company being accused of profiteering by collecting and selling customer information. This week, a Canadian sex toy manufacturer paid out $3.75 million to its North American customers, having been found to be secretly collecting customer data about use of its We-Vive product.
Some people have defended Bose, arguing that the Bose Connect app is an optional add on:
I don't get it. Bose is using an analytics tool (Segment.io) in its (optional) mobile app and gets sued over it?
— Joshua Schoenaker (@JoshSchoen) April 21, 2017
Others have commented that customer data being harvested has become a normal part of modern life:
Anyway hi welcome to the twenty-first century, your privacy is under attack from all sides. Oh dear. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
— Jessica (@ticky) April 20, 2017
Bose headphones accused of collecting data from its users. In Trump's America, headphone listen to you!
— Stevo Joslin (@StevoJoslin) April 21, 2017