An Illinois man has accused Bose, the audio equipment manufacturer, of illegally wiretapping him via his Bose headphones.
According to a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago on Tuesday, Kyle Zak bought a $350 pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless Bluetooth headphones in March 2017. Those headphones use an app, known as “Bose Connect,” to skip, pause, and perform other controls on them.
The civil complaint alleges that Bose collects “the names of any music and audio tracks” played througthe headphones, along with the customer’s personally identifiable serial number. It also says the information gets sent to third parties, including “data miner Segment.io.”
Lawyers for Zak argue that constitutes wiretapping. They further allege that type of interception could have revealed a lot of personal information about consumers, depending on their music or podcasting listening habits. For example, someone listening to “The Greatest Generation,” like its hosts, might be a little bit embarrassed to admit to the world that they listen to a Star Trek podcast.
Neither Bose nor Segment.io, which is not a party to the lawsuit, immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment.
The lawsuit claims that several other headphone models send out this data, including the SoundSport Wireless, Sound Sport Pulse Wireless, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, and SoundLink Color II.
Metadata vs. content
Zak, and his lawyers from Edelson, a Chicago-based law firm that specializes in technology and privacy cases, will have to show that the interception of the audio metadata is the same thing as the content contemplated by federal wiretap law.
“We discovered the issue, as we do in many of our cases, through an investigation conducted by our in-house computer forensics lab,” Christopher Dore, one of the Edelson lawyers involved in the case, e-mailed Ars.
Bose lawyers likely will argue that while it may be sending out copies of the metadata (artist, song title, etc.), that its actions do not constitute “contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication,” as defined under the relevant wiretap law. Therefore, it could argue, the company isn’t liable.
Edelson seems to have anticipated this line of argument, and points out that the Bose products interact with consumer smartphones, which transmit “operational instructions regarding skipping and rewinding audio tracks and their corresponding titles.”