Bose is acting shady with its headphones, lawsuit claims

Headphones, or data transmission devices?

Image: joseph Branston/Future/REX/Shutterstock

Turns out headphones might be as good at picking up information as they are at sending music into your earholes. 

An Illinois man filed a class-action lawsuit on Tuesday that claims his Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless Bluetooth headphones — in conjunction with the corresponding Bose Connect app — collected the songs and other tracks he listened to and matched that information to an identification number linked to him. Bose then allegedly sent that information to a data miner known as Segment.io, according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit goes on to claim that other types of Bose headphones transmit the same data, and that this constitutes wiretapping. 

United States law defines a wiretapper as a person who “intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any wire, oral, or electronic communication.” 

So, assuming Bose does send out information about what a person listens to, lawyers for plaintiff Kyle Zak will have to equate that data with something that constitutes a wire or electronic communication. The lawsuit offers a hint at how they plan to make that connection. 

“To collect customers’ media Information, defendant designed and programmed Bose Connect to continuously and contemporaneously intercept the content of electronic communications that customers send to their Bose wireless products from their smartphones, such as operational instructions regarding the skipping and rewinding audio tracks and their corresponding titles,” the lawsuit reads. “In other words, when a user interacted with Bose Connect to change their audio track, defendant intercepted the content of those electronic communications.”

Bose Connect allows users to skip songs or pause in the middle of a track. This argument says that every time a Bose Connect user hits pause or skip, that constitutes a communication. 

Bose Global Public Relations Manager Joanne Berthiaume wrote in an email that the company plans to “fight the inflammatory, misleading allegations …”

“In the Bose Connect App, we don’t wiretap your communications, we don’t sell your information, and we don’t use anything we collect to identify you – or anyone else – by name,” she added. 

If the court agrees with Zak’s lawyers, Bose could find themselves in trouble. If not, it will probably become difficult for Zak to stick his intended landing. 

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