Rumour has it popular duo Simon & Garfunkel tinkered around with a song called ‘The Sound of Snooping’ for a while before a catchier line occurred to them.
Anyway, here’s a dramatic quote to start off with
“This case shows the new world we are all living in,” Jay Edelson, founder of the firm that brought the suit, said in a statement. “Consumers went to buy headphones and were transformed into profit centers for data miners.”
The events leading up to this case, summarised.
- Man buys expensive headphones from pricey audio kit specialists Bose.
- After settling the $350 cans on his shell-likes he installs the helpful Connect app that Bose provides as part of the package.
- This helpful app sends back all the data it can get its grubby silicon mitts on to Bose. Everything he listens to.
- Bose looks at the data, shrugs, and sells it on third parties including a customer insights, analytics and targeting company called Segment.
This is not unusual, as Tom Jones once said. The coverage linked below goes into more detail about the inferences that can be drawn from knowing what music, radio programs and podcasts an individual likes to listen to in the privacy of their own spendy headphones.
It is worthwhile thinking about this practice of data gathering and selling on, and especially the motivations for doing so.
Considering that Bose is a very successful manufacturer of high end audio gear, they probably aren’t short of cash. Unlike, say, a venture capital funded startup running out of runway and casting around any bit of money that can be scraped together to keep the lights on for another four weeks. These startups are far more likely to be put in a situation where they feel tempted to flog your information to the highest bidder. Keep this in mind as you install apps from companies you’ve never heard of. The reality is that you’re usually more at risk of a three person startup in a loft in Shoreditch hawking or leaking your data than a larger company.
- If it’s long (they’re almost always long) and you aren’t fluent in legalese, try searching for the words “third”, “sharing”, “partners” and “information”. This should help you zero in on any sections indicating what the maker of the app may be planning to do with your data.
As a bonus, there’s a customer testimonial video on the Segment website featuring the director of analytics for Instacart. In the best example of nominative determinism we’ve seen around these parts since James Brokenshire became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, this gentleman is called Che Horder.
+ ‘Bose headphones spy on listeners: lawsuit’, Reuters
+ ‘Are You Really Going To Install That? [KitBits 17.2]’, Privacy Kit
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[Image credit: Alphacolor 13 on Unsplash]