In Defense of Bose 'Spying' on Consumers
Bose Corp finds themselves in a bit of hot water after they -- or more specifically their app -- is allegedly selling information without permission.
The class action lawsuit, filed by Kyle Zak in a Chicago federal court, claims Bose's Connect app collected the listening metadata of songs, podcasts, and other information without consent. The plaintiff's lawyers further call this a violation of the Federal Wiretap Act and various state privacy laws.
Opinions from even just a few days ago would paint Bose's app as (mostly) harmless. The app improved paired connections between Bose products and music sources. This also provided a convenient spot to collect metadata and send it to analytics mining firm Segment.io. It is worth noting that the app is not required, but it does provide premium tools like paired device switching over Bose's proprietary Bluetooth system.
The perfect storm of quietly combining collected information, registered product data, and listening habits made for a sophisticated profile of outraged Bose users.
Purely anecdotal, I don't find anything wrong with my music preferences being collected. In fact, I subscribe to a few different mediums that make that information public, some in real time. That is entirely my choice.
However, I do understand that bigger issue is the disrespect of privacy, not how many times I've listened to my favorite high school throwback.
What scares me the most is only days after Bose was alleged to do this, people are trying to put this invasion of privacy in the same conversation as Vizio, who was caught collecting data not only from your TV but connected devices on your network and sent identifiable information to unnamed third parties.
The particular evolving Bose witch hunt has yet to prove that Segment.io even has any data.
So when Jay Edelson, founder of the firm heading the suit, states that "this case shows the new world we are all living in" and that consumers "were transformed into profit centers for data miners" is a bit farfetched. I'm a firm believer that there is a defined line between a company learning about who you are and a company transforming you into a money machine.
Edelson is right, we are in a new world, dictating new standards and ideas for how consumers and companies should interact with each other. I welcome the idea of targeted ads for concerts from my favorite artists instead of a generalized 10% discount on new tires on the bike I don't own. Data collection can fine tune a business and, believe it or not, it is in a companies best interest to make more money.
The bottom line is, Bose doesn't own your data but neither do you. Your phone tracks your movements. Law enforcement tracks the roads you drive. Cell towers track your calls and texts. Stores track your purchases. Social media tracks your interests. Think about the life of paparazzi. The worst paparazzo can legally follow and note everything you do in a public place, without ever being noticed. Why is suddenly upsetting when our phone does it?
We are in the middle of an evolution, and while it may be uncomfortable, we need to embrace that we have lost our right to be completely hidden.
That being said, Bose is still in the wrong. I firmly believe that any level of tracking should be transparent. Opt-in should give consumers additional benefits and should be explicitly explained. The new norm should be explaining why data is collected, not fighting every company that attempts to do it. There is no reason for the lack of communication, which is honestly all I can hold Bose accountable for.