Bose knows what you're listening to.
At least that's the claim of a class-action lawsuit filed yesterday in Illinois that accuses the high-end audio equipment maker of spying on its users and selling information about their listening habits without permission.
The main plaintiff in the case is Kyle Zak, who bought a US$350 pair of wireless Bose headphones last month.
He registered the headphones, giving the company his name and email address, as well as the headphone serial number. And he download the Bose Connect app, which the company said would make the headphones more useful by adding functions such as the ability to customise the level of noise cancellation in the headphones.
But it turns out the app was also telling Bose a lot more about Zak than he bargained for.
Combined with the registration information, that gave Bose access to personally identifiable information that Zak and others never agreed to share, the complaint says. Listening data can be very personal, particularly if users are listening to podcasts or other audio files that could shade in information about their political preferences, health conditions or other interests, the complaint argues.
The filing also alleges that Bose wasn't just collecting the information. It was also sharing it with a data mining company called Segment.io, according to research conducted by Edelson, the Chicago-based law firm representing Zak.
Bose did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit.
Wireless headphones are part of a growing category of connected devices, in which everyday products can hook up to the Internet and pass information from users to companies. Other smart device makers have been accused of sharing and selling information without users' consent. Television maker Vizio settled with the Federal Trade Commission in February over allegations that it shared customers' viewing data with other companies without letting its users know.
"It's increasingly important for companies to be upfront and honest about the data use policies" as more devices become smart, said John Verdi, vice president of policy at the Future of Privacy Forum. "This is a sign of the friction that is increasingly common when devices, like headphones, that were not previously connected or data-driven become increasingly data-driven."
Zak's complaint alleges that Bose's actions violate Illinois state statutes prohibiting deceptive business practices, as well as laws against eavesdropping and wiretapping.