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Bose allegedly collected and sold personal user data, including listening habits

Why it matters to you

You might be surprised to find out just how much your listening habits can reveal about you.

Bose’s QC35 are one of the most popular options for wireless noise-canceling headphones, but a new lawsuit warns that buyers may not know what they’re signing up for when they use them. A complaint filed on Tuesday by Kyle Zak claims that Bose not only tracks the listening habits of users of the headphones, but sells that information without permission, Reuters reports.

“People should be uncomfortable with it,” lawyer Christopher Dore, who is representing Zak in the case, said in an interview with 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.”

After buying the QC35 headphones — which retail for $350 — Zak installed the Bose Connect app, which the company says enhances the listening experience. While the headphones work fine without the app, some features are only available after installing it. When users sign up for Bose Connect, users need to supply information including their name, phone number, and email address, thus linking their listening habits with their personal information.

Many products from a wide variety of companies collect similar information these days, often to better personalize advertising. The problem with listening habits is that this can unknowingly reveal sensitive information — what podcast a person listens to could reveal their political leanings, for example. The complaint uses the example that someone listening to Muslim prayers would “very likely” be a Muslim.

The complaint alleges that Bose is creating detailed profiles of its listeners and their habits, and selling all of this information to third parties. One of these parties is the San Francisco-based Segment.io, whose website offers to “collect all of your customer data and send it anywhere.”

For its part, Bose has remained silent on the lawsuit. For those curious for more information, the complaint is available in its entirety online.