Audio electronics giant Bose faces data mining charges over accusations that it has been covertly collecting its customers’ personal information, including tastes in music and podcasts, in cooperation with a San Francisco-based aggregator.
A class action suit filed in Chicago on Tuesday claims Bose has been “secretly collecting, transmitting, and disclosing its customers’ private music and audio selections to third parties, including a data mining company,” named in the papers as Segment.io.
The charges center on Bose’s sound gear and the Bose Connect app. The software tool, available for iOS and Android devices, promises to help users “get the most out of your headphones” in exchange for their name, phone number and email address.
Bose is renowned for its high-quality home and automobile audio systems, speakers, noise cancelling headphones, and professional audio equipment. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company reports billions in annual sales. But for all its success, Bose is now in the crosshairs of the media for a practice that, Fortune reports, could violate several privacy laws. Such data could presumably be used for targeted advertising.
On the Apple App Store, Bose advertises its Connect app as a one-stop-shop for new features and options. These perks include an auto-off timer, volume control, battery readings and, last but probably most importantly, the ability to instantly swap between multiple Bluetooth connections and even stream sound to multiple speakers at once. However, users can enjoy their Bose hardware without ever downloading – and registering with – the Bose Connect app.
According to the class action suit’s lead plaintiff, Kyle Zak, who invites fellow Bose customers to join the fight, the app asks for the user’s phone number, name, email address and headphone serial number in exchange for the extra oomph. Per the suit, the app makes detailed profiles of listening history and habits. Sending that information to a third party without the user’s express consent violates what is known as the WireTap law.
The lawsuit, which does not specify damages, apparently lacks definitive proof that Bose is working with Segment.io to mine customer data. Segment’s website indeed boasts that it can “collect all of your customer data and send it anywhere.”
Edelson, the law firm representing Zak, said customers aren’t presented with the user service and privacy agreements when signing up in the app. Furthermore, the privacy agreement doesn’t mention data collection, the firm said.
The class action targets several Bose products, including the QuietComfort 35 headphones, the SoundSport Wireless and Sound Sport Pulse Wireless, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Color II, and SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II. Bose has yet to respond to the accusations.
Readers who feel at home sifting through legal jargon can scroll through the original filing below.