Bose Wireless Headphones Spy on Listeners, Lawsuit Alleges

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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.


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

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45 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)
Avatar
45 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)
Avatar
45 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)
Avatar
45 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)
Avatar
45 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)
Avatar
45 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)

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