Is Bose Secretly Collecting Personal Data Through Your Headphones?

If a judge rules against Bose, how will this affect similar data collection techniques by companies like Amazon?

In 2015, Arkansas police charged James Andrew Bates with first-degree murder. He allegedly murdered a man named Victor Collins.  Last August, police issued Amazon a search warrant requesting it hand over data included in Bates’ Amazon Echo.

After another warrant showed police extracted valuable data the Echo secretly collected, critics slammed the company for apparently collecting consumer data without permission.  The e-commerce giant didn’t specify what information the Echo collects.

Now, a new lawsuit filed against Bose will put similar hidden data collection practices to the test.

Kyle Zak paid $350 for a pair Bose wireless headphones.  To “get the most out his] headphones,” Zak downloaded the Bose Connect app.  He also registered his wireless headphones online by providing the serial numbers, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers.

Last yesterday, Chicago-based consumer privacy law firm Edelson PC filed a class-action lawsuit against Bose in federal court. Representing Zak, Edelson PC claims the company has collected and recorded the details music and audio files customers listen to its Bose Connect app.  They then transmit this data, along with customers’ personal identifies, to third-parties, including data miners.

Consumers have no idea that this takes place, according to the suit.

One notable third-party is sophisticated San Francisco data mining and analysis company, Segment.  Their website proudly states (in large font),

“Collect all your customer data and send it anywhere.

Stream data to every marketing integration your team needs.”

Filed in US District Court Illinois, the lawsuit states that Bose violated five causes action.

First, the company violated the Federal Wiretap Act. First established in 1968, the Wiretap Act prohibits intentional “interception” “wire, oral, or electronic communications.” By secretly collecting consumer data, Bose “intentionally intercepted and/or endeavored to intercept” consumer electronic communications.

Second, the headphones/speaker company violated the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute. A person (or company) violates this statute when he or she knowingly and intentionally intercepts, records, or transcribes private electronic communication. The company allegedly designed and programmed the Connect app to “monitor, intercept, collect, record, transmit, and disclose” electronic communication.

Third, Bose intruded upon the seclusion Kyle Zak and other consumers. Dubbed Intrusion Upon Seclusion (a special form invasion privacy), the company knowingly transmitted consumer Media information. The lawsuit states that this collection and transmission is “highly fensive to a reasonable person.” This data is capable “revealing highly private details about their lives,” including personalities, behaviors, and political views.

Fourth, the company’s actions directly violate the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act (ICFA). The ICFA prohibits unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business acts or practices, including (but not limited to) omission material facts.

Fifth, Bose benefited from hidden collection data. Titled Unjust Enrichment, the company disclosed consumer information to third-party without any knowledge or content.

The lawsuit demands a jury trial and actual, statutory, and punitive damages.

You can read the lawsuit below.