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Privacy The Courts

Bose Headphones Secretly Collected User Data, Lawsuit Reveals (fortune.com) 229

The audio maker Bose, whose wireless headphones sell for up to $350, uses an app to collect the listening habits of its customers and provide that information to third parties -- all without the knowledge and permission of the users, according to a lawsuit filed in Chicago. From a report: The complaint accuses Boston-based Bose of violating the WireTap Act and a variety of state privacy laws, adding that a person's audio history can include a window into a person's life and views. "Indeed, 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," says the complaint, noting a person's audio history may contain files like LGBT podcasts or Muslim call-to-prayer recordings.

Bose Headphones Secretly Collected User Data, Lawsuit Reveals

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    • Good lord, I was playing Pepper by the Butthole Surfers. Good song, BTW...
    • by Mycroft-X ( 11435 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:05AM (#54263123)

      noting a person's audio history may contain files like LGBT podcasts or Muslim call-to-prayer recordings.

      Why do people who, if you asked them, would say that things like the above shouldn't be stigmatized, then go out of their way to stigmatize them with an implication that content in those categories should be subject to some sort of special expectation of privacy?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Oh, I don't know, perhaps because dickheads persecute them for it?

        • Oh, I don't know, perhaps because dickheads persecute them for it?

          So, do you want it normalised or stigmatised?

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            So, do you want it normalised or stigmatised?

            These are not mutually exclusive categories.
            First of all, people who are LGBT are NOT normal. They're not the average person,
            definitely outliers, statistically speaking. This does not imply there is a stigma.
            After all, some of the Best people such as Einstein were extremely abnormal.... far from the Norm.

            Some of the people in the LGBT category WANT you to know they are in that category, some of them want ONLY themselves
            or specific people to know, they are

      • Why do people who, if you asked them, would say that things like the above shouldn't be stigmatized...

        Who says that....?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Why do people who, if you asked them, would say that things like the above shouldn't be stigmatized, then go out of their way to stigmatize them with an implication that content in those categories should be subject to some sort of special expectation of privacy?

        Your logic doesn't follow. The issue is that they're already subject to stigma. Therefore (1) we need to remove that, (2) until we do, we need to ensure people who are LGBT or people with minority religious beliefs aren't targeted for that.

        The s

      • by Quirkz ( 1206400 ) <ross&quirkz,com> on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @12:18PM (#54263587) Homepage

        There's nothing special about the right to privacy, and stigmatization doesn't have to have anything to do with it. Anything you don't want to reveal, you ought to be able to keep to yourself. Religion and sexuality get cited a lot, because they're commonly things people might not want to reveal to strangers, corporations, etc.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Because even though they shouldn't be stigmatized, they are by some people in some places.

      • Believing that something shouldn't be stigmatized does not preclude acknowledging that it is stigmatized.
        --
        JimFive
      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        noting a person's audio history may contain files like LGBT podcasts or Muslim call-to-prayer recordings.

        Why do people who, if you asked them, would say that things like the above shouldn't be stigmatized, then go out of their way to stigmatize them with an implication that content in those categories should be subject to some sort of special expectation of privacy?

        Because they aren't.

        Its servicing more as a warning, as we continue a slide towards fascism, these will be the first on the "first they came for" lists.

        Its not that Muslims or LGBTI need special rights for privacy, its that we all need the right to privacy regardless of if you're listening to mass produced pop or prayer recordings. Muslims, etc... are used as examples because they'll be the first to suffer when rights are revoked.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        Some people who are curious about LGBT podcasts are secretive, and that's about what THEY are comfortable with, AND their choices; they may have people in their life who wouldn't understand. So it is a good example of a sensitive subject.

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        It's not a special expectation of privacy; these are just examples of why the blanket expectations of privacy. The same applies to alt-right podcasts, or Christian Identity music.

        You might not like these people, but they've got just as much right to privacy as you do, and possibly a lot more at stake.

  • Oh, shit. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @10:47AM (#54262993)

    I've bought Bose headphones (no, not the wireless: it's pretty improbable they spy on me, for a lack of channel for that).

    Remember to add Bose to no-buy list.

    HELLO, BOSE: You just went from "I'm a happy customer" to "You're on my no-buy list". Are you glad now?

    (Captcha: "decibel". Perhaps my earphones are listening on me, after all?)

    • Companies are, in fact, not (usually) stupid. Someone calculated the revenue from selling the information against the loss in sales X the chance it will be discovered. The profit said "do it!" I've worked for companies where it cost more to keep existing customers happy than to advertise for new ones. Guess what we did?

      • Re:Oh, shit. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:26AM (#54263235)

        This was for the longest time the approach to security. How high is the damage if our customer data gets lost? How much would it cost to secure it? It costs HOW MUCH? Screw security!

        Only when laws were passed that made CEOs personally (!) liable (yes, with their private money) if they can't show that they've taken reasonable steps to secure it, suddenly security became an issue.

        And we won't see anything being done in favor of privacy unless corporations feel the govenments' boots on their necks.

        • Too bad that in this case, the government has just as much interest in privacy invasion as the corporations do. In fact, the government tends to just get the corps to do their dirty work for them, so I'm not sure where you think this magical governmental salvation is going to come from.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

        Companies are, in fact, not (usually) stupid.

        I'd disagree - companies are, in fact, very stupid in very many ways. Just remember that the "brains" of a company for all intents and purposes are usually the CEO/COO and related C level folks. Now realize that most of those folks don't know the first thing about data security (for purposes of this particular topic) and only see the marketer numbers about how collecting x will generate y revenue for a minimal cost of 0.01% of generating y, as they determined with a single question during a program meeting.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't understand why The Kids (TM) are obsessed with apps. Any time someone tries to get you to use an app where you don't have to, you can be pretty sure it's in order to harvest more data about you.

    Captcha: everyday

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @10:50AM (#54263017)

    I don't buy expensive headphones and generally have avoided some things that are privacy invading. But even surfing the web I get some well-timed mailings that make me fucking paranoid as shit. So to that end I have a request of corporate America: My life is not a resource to be commoditized. Stop fucking spying on me you slimy pieces of shit. I will share information with you IF I WANT TO.

    • Not to worry. I still get American Girl adverts after buying one for my niece. Who just graduated college.

      I still get Hello Kitty adverts after buying some USB drives as a joke.

      Whatever the hell info they have on me, well, good luck with that.

    • We're not targeting you.

      Rgds, The Dragnet

    • by e r ( 2847683 )
      Do you use Linux?
  • sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @10:53AM (#54263031)

    Sigh. I know this is Slashdot, but come on!

    Bose Headphones Secretly Collected User Data, Lawsuit Reveals

    No.

    The lawsuit alleges (innocent until proven guilty) that the Bose completely optional app - not the headphones - collects too much data and shares it with 3rd parties without the user's consent.

    Which is bad if true, but it is a far cry from the "your headphones are spying on you" that the headline claims.

    Unsurprisingly, Slashdot probably picked this up to take yet another a jab at Apple.

    Now, queue ignorant comments about how bluetooth headphones are tools of the devil, Apple is evil, etc.

    • My reading of those who actually own these headphones says the app is not optional. There are settings, for instance, that can only be changed via the app. At best one could say the app is optional if you don't mind hobbling your expensive headphones.

  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @10:54AM (#54263037)

    Sure, this is not a good thing. But also remember, lawsuits like these are not filed by users who feel they were wronged, they are filed by lawyers looking for a good payout, it's a business plan. You, the user, will get a $25 coupon on an additional Bose purchase.

  • This should be interesting to watch play out. I honestly don't see this making it to trial and if it does, it'll be a speedy victory for Bose. The PTB absolutely do not want any sort of precendent set that says they are violating wire tapping and other privacy laws with these sort of everyday increasing intrusions from "smart devices".

    However, one can be hopeful that a hard nosed judge is selected that truly sees this growing trend as the problem it has become and gives Bose the ban hammer. Such a rulin
  • Why would anyone spend $350 on a pair of headphones? I typically spend $10 to $20 for headphones.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why would anyone spend $10 to $20 on a pair of headphones? I typically spend $1 to $2 for headphones.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:18AM (#54263197)
        Why would anyone spend $1 to $2 on a pair of headphones? I read sheet music and play it back in my head.
      • by bmk67 ( 971394 )

        Why would anyone pay $1 or $2 for headphones? I typically rip them off.

    • I've had an older equivalent of these Shure [shure.com] earphones for about a decade and I love them.

      I think they were about $499 when I got mine, so, prices are fairly consistent.

      They give about as good a sound as you can get from a mp3 player while riding a bike or in the gym.

      I really like them, but won't be as easy to use on next phone unless Apple stops being "brave" and reconsiders the jack removal from new products.

      I think in some areas, you *do* get what you pay for...and I like to get as good a sound rep

      • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

        Jeez. I felt bad enough when my dog chewed my "expensive" headphones that cost me maybe $40. I would be ticked beyond any puppy cuteness level at replacing a $500 pair, or even $100.

        • by creimer ( 824291 )

          I would be ticked beyond any puppy cuteness level at replacing a $500 pair, or even $100.

          Or be the unfortunate father at the Apple Genius Bar after your toddler dumps juice into your high-end MacBook Pro, find out that Apple Care doesn't cover that kind of damage, and a replacement logic board costs almost as much as a brand new laptop. I overheard that sob tale while getting my vintage 2006 Black MacBook repaired in 2012.

      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        My dog chewed up a pair I first had, and I found that the company was great and for $100 would replace them with a new pair which worked out great for me.

        Sometimes good warranty service can offset a higher price. I buy computer parts from Other World Computing [macsales.com]. A bit more expensive than what I can get from Hong Kong but OWC-branded parts have a three-year warranty. I recently sent back a 2.5"-to-3.5" bracket because the SATA cable snapped off the connector. I got a brand new part and the broken connector removed from the SATA cable.

    • Have you even HEARD a $350 pair of headphones? You own a phone without an audio port don't you? Admit it.
      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        Have you even HEARD a $350 pair of headphones?

        A $350 pair of headphones, no. A $1,100 pair of headphones (Beyerdynamic T1 [amzn.to]), yes. Sounds nice but overpriced for my modest lifestyle. I have a friend who makes less money than me who is saving up for a pair.

        You own a phone without an audio port don't you? Admit it.

        I have a iPhone 6S with audio jack. But I only use headphones with my PC.

        • It's interesting that you bring up modest lifestyle. I have one as well, but I went to these headphones because of it. I grew tired of replacing $20 pairs that would break on me, and it became apparent that buying a quality pair that would last me at least five years would be the way to both save money and enjoy music. It was win, win for me. As far as I know they are also the only company that will allow you to replace them years down the road and get a discount on your new pair.
          • by creimer ( 824291 )

            It's interesting that you bring up modest lifestyle.

            I have a high-frequency hearing loss in one ear. The difference between a $20 headphones and $1100 headphones is $1080.

    • Most people don't buy Bose headphones for their awesome sound quality. Most people buy them because they have reasonable sound quality, with awesome noise cancelling ability.

      I have a call every morning with my team in India. Because of time zones, that call is every morning while I'm on the train. I can't hear anything with regular headphones, and you wind up having the volume turned all the way up trying to drown out the ambient noise. With my Bose ones, I can keep the volume relatively low, and hear th
  • by Old97 ( 1341297 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @10:58AM (#54263071)

    In the article it says you can use the headphones without the app. Bose "encourages" customers to download and use the app with the headphones. That should give it away. Why do you think they want you to use their app? You can adjust the app settings - presumably what it can and cannot do. It seems what Bose did wrong was not be clear up front as to what the default result of using the app would be. That's not quite as bad as your smart TV spying on you if you connect it to your internet connected LAN.

    I'm going to recheck my microwave now. I wonder if I should down this GE microwave app.

  • by U8MyData ( 1281010 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:00AM (#54263093)
    Anyone want to start a conversation regarding new privacy legislation where consumer electronics come into play? First, Comey saying there is no such thing as privacy any more, paraphrasing of course. Second, your browsing history up for grabs to the highest bidder. Third, this goes on and on. EULA is the devil in all details and should be abolished. When do citizens get to realize the bill of rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of what? Submission?
    • I'm more concerned that at some point, the defense will be "after all of the identity theft, news about hacking, and stories like this one, you just should have expected this". And that defense might just win, without a specific law. A clear, well written one. Which seems unlikely under Profit First TrumpTato.

  • I am sure other companies do it.

    Why wouldn't cable set top boxes and roku like media players not collect such data? The incentives are enormous. All they need some legal fig leaf. Credit card companies have been consolidating spending habits. Target famously detected the pregnancy of a girl unbeknownst to her parents.

  • ...living in a faraday cage.Those fellows are no longer considered paranoid, but farseeing. It seems if it has a wireless connection (known or unknown), which is virtually anything electronic these days, you need to wear a tin foil hat to use your headphones privately.
    • This movie [wikipedia.org] seemed far-fetched when it came out in 1998. We're not even two decades later and it's now the accepted norm.

      I'm afraid to think about how things will be in 2037.

  • The headphones aren't collecting any data. The App is, it's just another app selling your information. That's what apps are for!
    • by bmk67 ( 971394 )

      In before Apps!

    • The headphones aren't collecting any data. The App is, it's just another app selling your information. That's what apps are for!

      Is the app collecting and selling your information without the headphones?

      If not, then you're splitting cunt hairs over this, and the headline is more accurate than you assume.

  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:16AM (#54263177)
    ... the headphones listen to you!
    • Actually my headphones are Bose QC25, so...

      In Soviet Russia, my headphones listen to YOU! (as in, not me but everyone around me).

  • You want data? You shall receive! It's about time we start writing apps that supply data to those data hungry collectors. All kinds of data. You want to know what web pages I visit? Fire up a script that visits all of them. You want to know what YouTube videos I watch? Fire up a script that opens a load of them in the background while I watch the one I actually want to watch. You want to know what ... you get the idea.

    There is one thing that's worse for someone trying to sell data than having no data: Havin

    • Name: Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya.
      Mother: unknown
      Father: You killed my father. Prepare to die. Montoya
      Date of birth: around the 14th–17th century
      Age: 493
      Location: Five dollars per week, late fees of ten dollars per day.
      Occupation: Finding the six-fingered man who killed his father.
      Email: hellomynameisinigomontoyayoukilledmyfatherpreparetodie@gmail.com

    • by gnick ( 1211984 )

      You want to know what web pages I visit? Fire up a script that visits all of them.

      You're only a couple of steps away from inventing tor.

  • Was the company really so naive as to not include verbiage granting them permission to do this in the "User Agreement" or "Terms of Use" that users are required to accept prior to installing the app?

    Most cell phone apps require you to agree to forfeit your privacy for the privilege of using the app? Many of the agreements I've seen clearly specify that they will access just about everything on your phone, including the camera and microphone, to gather data about you.

  • by linuxwrangler ( 582055 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @12:04PM (#54263457)

    My wife bought a Wave IV Soundtouch with a 30-day return policy - the only good policy they have and the one we exercised.

    Want to set the thing up and use the features you paid for like Internet radio? You have to use the app. The first thing the app requires to even start setup is access to your location. WTF? Then there is their so-called "privacy" policy (which is currently so private that they have broken links on their site so you can't even find it now) that allows them to track your listening (which could even include AM, FM, CD, etc), combine it with other info and sell or use it for marketing purposes.

    In the words of my sound engineer friend: BOSE stands for Bring Other Sound Equipment.

    • I don't want to start a holy war here, but what is the deal with you BOSE fanatics? I've been sitting here at my freelance gig with my QuietComfort 35 wireless loaded with Megadeth for about 20 minutes now while I attempt to listen to a 17 Meg mp3 from one directory on the ipod. 20 minutes. At home, with my Pioneer HDJ2000 listening to Radiohead, which by all standards should be a lot slower than Megadeth, the same operation would take about 2 minutes. If that.

      In addition, during this jam session, Soundclou

  • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @01:01PM (#54263997) Homepage
    I read the article and complaint. Lots of allegations of wrong-doing, but I don't see a shred of evidence presented anywhere. Maybe the legal complaint is the wrong place for a technical discussion, but I'd like to see some sort of evidence of the app sending data back to the mothership. Anyone know where to find a good technical analysis?
  • This is why a headphone jack is important. Analog connections are better for users.
    • And apparently *this* issue is from an optional app, but how long before there is a bluetooth device that installs something? Or requires you to install something in order to use it?
  • As an experiment I bought a pair of Noisehush for fifty bucks on sale. I mainly use them on flights and -- surprise -- they really make a difference. Probably not as effective as the Bose dampers for sure... But they kill the jet noise and cabin chatter and let me get immersed in my content. They are a little cheaply made IMHO and required a minor hack to the keep battery cover in place. They use AAA batteries. I keep spares in the case. They last 120 hours. I don't know.... A quick battery swap vs a rech
    • I've read a lot of reviews and they all say Bose has the best noise reduction hands down. I wouldn't call myself a Bose crusader, they just happen to be my best headphones to date.
      • For 350 clams they better be. Not saying my cheaper gear was better or even as good. Just saying that for one sixth of the price I get a serviceable device which is by far better than the phones issued on the plane. By far. Good enough to really improve my journey. Oh, and they are too cheap to come with their own app. Another plus IMHO.
        • 350 is for the top of the line noise reduction headphones. Every review I have read about those headphones have put them clearly top of the market for noise reduction technology. I don't have those headphones, mine are the base level ones that are more around $120. I have the around the ear ones and my buds I had an opportunity to buy at half price. Both of them are the most comfortable headphones I have ever used. The buds I fall asleep with in my ear and forget they are in when I wake up in the morni

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