Lawsuit accuses Bose of spying on users through headphone app

Bad behavior by Bose.

Matthew Jackson via Flickr. Click for original.
(Image: © Matthew Jackson via Flickr)

Audio company Bose is accused of using an app to collect and track the listening habits of its wireless headphone customers, and then selling that data to third parties without permission.

The complaint was filed today by Kyle Zak in federal court in Chicago, Reuters reports. He's trying to get class-action status for his lawsuit, which alleges that the companion Bose Connect app used with several of the company's headphones violates the U.S. Wiretap Act by "secretly collecting, transmitting, and disclosing its customers' private music and audio selections to third parties, including a data mining company."

"People should be uncomfortable with it," Christopher Dore, a lawyer representing Zak, told Reuters. "People put headphones on their head because they think it's private, but they can be giving out information they don't want to share."

In his lawsuit, Zak said he purchased a set of Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones for $350 and then followed Bose's suggestion to download its app. In doing so, he provided his name, email address, and headphone serial number.

Zak said he was surprised to learn that Bose had sent "all available media information" from his smartphone to third parties. Among the recipients was a company called Segment.io, which brags in bold letters on its website that it will "collect all of your customer data and send it anywhere."

While sharing a user's listening habits might seem benign, Zak argues otherwise in his lawsuit.

"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. In fact, numerous scientific studies show that musical preferences reflect explicit characteristics such as age, personality, and values, and can likely even be used to identify people with autism spectrum conditions. And that's just a small sampling of what can be learned from one's music preferences," the lawsuit reads, according to CNET.

Zak is seeking millions of dollars in damages to be dispersed among buyers of Bose's QuietComfort 35, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, SoundLink Color II, SoundSport Wireless, and SoundSport Pulse Wireless.

If you're looking for buying advice on headphones, especially ones that don't track and sell your listening habits, be sure to check our picks for the best high-end headphones, best gaming headsets, and best wireless headsets.