Bose Wireless Headphones Spy on Listeners, Lawsuit Alleges

by

Bose has been hit by a lawsuit that accuses the company of spying on its wireless headphone customers through its Bose Connect mobile app and violating consumer privacy rights (via Reuters).

The complaint was filed on Tuesday in a Chicago federal court by Kyle Zak, who is seeking an injunction to stop Bose's "wholesale disregard" for the privacy of customers who download the app to their smartphones.

cq5dam
The lawsuit alleges that Bose tracks the listening habits of users when they are wearing headsets like the company's QuietComfort 35 headphones, gleaning information through the app such as music tracks played, podcasts, and other audio listened to.

According to Zak, who bought a pair of $350 QC35 cans, Bose sends all available information to third parties such as Segment.io, a data capture outfit whose website promises to "collect all of your customer data and send it anywhere".

"People should be uncomfortable with it," Christopher Dore, a lawyer representing Zak, said in an interview. "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."

Audio choices offer "an incredible amount of insight" into customers' personalities, behavior, politics and religious views, the complaint said, citing as an example that a person who listens to Muslim prayers might "very likely" be a Muslim.

Zak is seeking millions of dollars of damages for customers who bought Bose headphones and speakers, including QuietComfort 35, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, SoundLink Color II, SoundSport Wireless and SoundSport Pulse Wireless.

Zak also wants a halt to the data collection, which he said violates the federal Wiretap Act and Illinois laws against eavesdropping and consumer fraud. Bose has yet to respond to requests for comment on the proposed class action case.

Tag: Bose

Top Rated Comments

ColBatGuano Avatar
47 months ago
[USER=1013175]@555gallardo[/USER]...

Maybe he does, but so what?
If you join Facebook you presumably have agreed to their terms.
Did Bose's agreement mention this?
Do you understand the concept of informed consent?
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Marshall73 Avatar
47 months ago
The only way to get companies to pay attention and listen to your complaints is to sue for millions. If this stops companies collecting your usage data and reselling it then it's worth it.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rmbpuser Avatar
47 months ago
I actually like it when my tech is listening/watching me, it makes me feel less lonely. I wish everything would be able to track me; it would be amazing if Netflix was as smart as Facebook, imagine if it could suggest me some comedies to watch one day because it heard me crying from my laptop's microphone earlier then.

IMHO only terrorist will have a problem with that.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Glassed Silver Avatar
47 months ago

Does this person use Facebook, too?

Sweet Jesus it's 2017 and people still lob that around?

You can not partially agree to consensually share your data?

In that case, brace yourselves, because you have to leave planet earth or live in a forest on a faraway uninhabited island.

Glassed Silver:ios
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Relentless Power Avatar
47 months ago

Does this person use Facebook, too?

Regardless, I don't think anyone expected Bose to be secretively eavesdropping on someone's listening habits, where as Facebook you consent to their policy. Bose will eventually have to respond to this allegation.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jacjustjac Avatar
47 months ago

I'm confused though. I have the Bose QC35 and use the app. I never had to put my name into the app... All I use it for is listening to songs. How could my information possibly be "sold off"?

Is this article implying that my conversations and whatever I'm saying into the microphone get sent to Bose?

I read the article, but am just not getting the fuss. Like how can Bose selling off my listening habits possibly affect me?

The app has a control screen that shows you the title of whatever you are listening to, along with playback controls. Just like a Bluetooth car stereo can show you the track name and artist, the Bose headphones are relaying this directly to the app. I notice that when I have connected my QC35s to both my iPad and my phone, and play music from my iPad, the track name/artist shows up on the app on my iPhone and I can use the iPhone to control the playback, even the volume on my iPad, as if I had pressed the buttons on the headphones instead. So there is definitely a direct relay of playback information from the headphones to the app, even if the source is a second Bluetooth device.

It didn't occur to me that Bose might be reading that list of music and sending it off to gleam a listening profile of its users. I doubt they are actually receiving data from the microphones in the headset, especially because the current Bluetooth profile prevents high quality music playback and the microphone from being used at the same time.

The immediate solution is to delete the app. You don't really need it for basic playback operation.

The more effective solution is to hold Bose accountable. This should be an opt-in feature, and clearly displayed that your listening history may be sent to third-parties via the app. Technically any wireless headphone that uses an app could do this, and we don't want to set a trend that it's okay to do this in secret.

The tech nerd in me could see a bright side though. Perhaps Bose simply wants to build a custom EQ for every song, identifying what is being played and adjusting it to fit the genre that they've estimated from millions of other user's listening habit. In the FAQ in their app, Bose advises not to use any equalizer with their headphones, because supposedly their EQ built into the headphones is the best for allllllll types of music. Perhaps they hope to improve it via a third party. It would be nice to know, but Bose is a very secretive company, and now we finally know why they never include release notes in their headphone firmware updates.....
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

windows 10

Developer Successfully Virtualizes Windows for Arm on M1 Mac

Friday November 27, 2020 7:16 am PST by
Developer Alexander Graf has successfully virtualized the Arm version of Windows on an M1 Mac, proving that the M1 chip is capable of running Microsoft's operating system (via The 8-Bit). Currently, Macs with the M1 chip do not support Windows and there is no Boot Camp feature as there is on Intel Macs, but support for Windows is a feature that many users would like to see. Using the...
iPhone black friday 20 sale feature

Apple Black Friday 2020: Best iPhone Deals

Friday November 27, 2020 12:56 pm PST by
Black Friday is halfway done, but there are still a few deals to shop for on iPhones at carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile/Sprint. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. AT&T Starting with AT&T, you'll find up to $700 off any iPhone 12 when...
AirPods Pro black friday 20 sale feature 2

Black Friday 2020: AirPods Pro Reach Lowest Price Ever [Updated]

Wednesday November 25, 2020 3:22 pm PST by
Black Friday has kicked off this week, and one of the first major sales for the AirPods Pro is available right now on Walmart. You can find this deal below, along with a few other solid discounts on the regular AirPods. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site...
Apple Watc black friday 20 sale feature

Apple Black Friday 2020: Best Apple Watch Deals [Updated]

Wednesday November 25, 2020 4:01 pm PST by
Black Friday sales have begun on a variety of products, including the Apple Watch. There are quite a few deals across the Apple Watch lineup this year, including one of the lowest price we've ever seen the Apple Watch Series 3. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the...
iphone trade in store

UK Environmental Committee Says Apple Contributing to 'Throwaway Culture' of 'Short-Lived Products'

Thursday November 26, 2020 7:07 am PST by
Technology companies like Apple are contributing to e-waste by making their products difficult to repair, and charging expensive repair fees, according to a lengthy report published today by the UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee. "We were told that Apple glues and solders parts together on their laptops, which makes repairing them very difficult," the Committee wrote in a summary ...
MacBooks black friday

Apple Black Friday 2020: Best Mac and MacBook Deals

Thursday November 26, 2020 8:29 pm PST by
For Black Friday 2020, many retailers have solid deals on a variety of Macs. Apple's new M1 Macs are ones everyone wants right now, but because they're so new, deals on them are fairly sparse, although we are seeing some modest discounts. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps...
Top Stories 38 Feature

Top Stories: Black Friday Deals, Redesigned MacBooks, Hands-On With Apple's M1 Macs

Saturday November 28, 2020 6:00 am PST by
With Apple's holiday hardware lineup seemingly all set, attention this week turned to the shopping end of things with Apple and other retailers rolling out their Black Friday deals. That wasn't the only news this week, however, as we've continued to learn more about Apple's new M1-based Macs and we've even heard some fresh rumors about redesigned Mac notebooks coming next year, so read on...
General black friday 20 sale feature 2

Apple Black Friday 2020: Our Top Picks

Friday November 27, 2020 6:16 am PST by
Black Friday shopping has officially kicked off across the United States, and we've been collecting the best deals for Apple's iPads, Macs, AirPods, the HomePod, Apple Watch, and more in separate articles. In order to further streamline your Black Friday shopping this year, we've put together this quick list of our top picks of the overall best Apple-related bargains happening today. Note:...
mac mini macbook pro macbook air

Apple M1 Hands-On Comparison: MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro vs. Mac Mini

Monday November 23, 2020 3:40 pm PST by
Apple's M1 Macs are out in the wild now, but ahead of the holidays, you might still be trying to figure out which one to pick up, either for yourself or as a gift for someone else. We've got all three of the new Macs available, so we thought we'd give MacRumors readers a hands-on overview of each machine in our latest YouTube video. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. ...
General black friday 20 sale feature

Thanksgiving Day Deals Still Available on AirPods, M1 Macs, Apple Watch Series 6, iPads

Thursday November 26, 2020 10:21 am PST by
Black Friday deals seem to start earlier and earlier every year, so there were already a wide variety of discounts available for Apple products on Thanksgiving Day. Many of the deals remain available even after Thanksgiving, but act fast, as inventory quickly fluctuates. Thanksgiving Day Deals on Apple Products — Still Available:AirPods with a wireless charging case remain available for...