Thoughts and tips on information security and privacy in an increasingly digital life

Internet of Things (IoT),Privacy

Spying… headphones?

2 May , 2017, 08.02 Linus Nyman


The notion that headphones are something used solely to listen to content with seems one-sided and archaic. At least according to manufacturer Bose, who has been accused of using their headphones and related app to spy on their customers listening habits.

The main plaintiff, Kyle Zak, bought a pair of $350 wireless headphones. (I know what you’re thinking, but no – charging 350 dollars for headphones wasn’t part of what got Bose in trouble.) Then Zak followed Bose’s advice about getting the most out of his ($350) headphones by downloading the Bose Connect app. And registering his headphones with Bose – and giving the company his e-mail address and the serial number of his headphones.

And with that, all the pieces were in place for yet another story of apps that secretly gather data.

Spying headphones? Bose QuietComfort 35.

Bose QuietComfort 35. (Pic:


We don’t know how Zak arrived at the conclusion that Bose was gathering data. What we do know is that he’s accusing Bose of gathering a lot of it: information about everything users listen to – music, podcasts, etc. And then sending that information to third parties. Without the users’ consent.

Among these third parties is the company, which on its website proclaims: Collect all of your customer data and send it anywhere.

Zak notes that collecting this data is against various laws, including the quite serious-sounding federal Wiretap Act, and says he hopes the lawsuit will get Bose to stop its data gathering.

Would you like some half-truths with that?

Bose released a statement, noting that ”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.”

One would hope, when a headphone manufacturer is accused of gathering data about absolutely everything their customers listen to, that their answer could just be a simple (and truthful): Of course we don’t do that! But that’s not the world we live in anymore. (IoT, anyone?) Now we get cryptic half-truths. (They don’t sell our information. Right, so they trade it or give it away for free, then? Etc.)

The case involves at least the Bose headphone models QuietComfort 35, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, SoundLink Color II, SoundSport Wireless and SoundSport Pulse Wireless.

If you want to read more about this story, check out e.g. Fortune, PC Mag, or Business Insider.

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