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Lawsuit: Bose headphone app secretly collects customer listening habits, data then sold by Bose

By Scott Holland | Apr 19, 2017

Bose headphones

An Illinois man is pursuing a class action complaint worth at least $5 million against Bose Corp., accusing the maker of high-end wireless headphones, speakers and other audio equipment of selling customer data secretly collected by an app paired with the headphones and other consumer gear.

Kyle Zak filed suit  April 17 in federal court in Chicago, saying Bose makes a practice of “secretly collecting, transmitting and disclosing its customers’ private music and audio selections to third parties, including a data mining company.”

Bose customers who want to use all the features of the wireless speakers, Zak contended, must install the Bose Connect app on their iPhone or Android mobile devices to pair the two components. However, he said those customers are not aware Bose collects data about the music and audio files played and sends it other companies, including, a data miner.

“One’s personal audio selections — including music, radio broadcast, podcast and lecture choices — provide an incredible amount of insight into his or her personality, behavior, political views, and personal identity,” the complaint states. “In fact, numerous scientific studies show that musical preferences reflect explicit characteristics such as age, personality and values, and can likely even be used to identify people with autism spectrum conditions.”

Zak identified affected Bose wireless products, QuietComfort 35 — which he bought in March for $350 — as well as SoundSport Wireless, Sound Sport Pulse Wireless, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II and SoundLink Color II, and said the issue surfaced in 2016. He likened Bose Connect to other app-based music players like iTunes and the Podcast app found on iPhones.

He further cited Bose advertising, including on product packaging, encouraging customers to “download the app to ‘get the most out of your headphones,’” as well as how the company suggests registering the products, a process by which they provide the product’s serial number as well as their full name, address and phone number.

Bose, Zak added, “designed and programmed Bose Connect to continuously and contemporaneously intercept the content of electronic communications that customers send to their Bose Wireless Products from their smartphones, such as operational instructions regarding the skipping and rewinding audio tracks and their corresponding titles.”

Zak detailed the way in which companies can use information about people’s music and audio choices to determine “sensitive information … that suggests their politics, religious views, thoughts, sentiment and emotions,” and further argued Bose concealed its data collection policies because products that collect and transmit data would be worth less than those that do not, and that “few, if any, of its customers would have purchased a Bose wireless product in the first place had they known that it would monitor, collect, and transmit their media information.”

The proposed plaintiffs class would include any Bose wireless and Bose Connect app user in the United States, as well as a class for only Illinois Bose customers.

Formal allegations include unjust enrichment and violation of the Federal Wiretap Act, as well as counts of intrusion upon seclusion, violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act and the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute.

In addition to class certification and a jury trial, Zak seeks an injunction preventing Bose from further data collection and transmission as well as actual, statutory and punitive damages, legal fees and interest.

Zak is represented in the action by attorneys from the firm of Edelson PC, of Chicago.

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Organizations in this Story

Edelson, PCU.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois