TECH | La Liga spies on fútbol fans through its app

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The unthinkable has happened: an app maker is actually admitting it’s secretly listening to us!

The official streaming app of Spain’s La Liga soccer division has been listening to its users, according to Spanish newspaper El Diario. The app activates the microphone when GPS detects that users are in a bar, all in order to discover whether venues are playing illegal streams. Yikes!

La Liga is one of the top soccer leagues in the world, with superstar Lionel Messi as a player on the team FC Barcelona. The app has over 10 million installs in the Google Play store.

The app reportedly only activated phone microphones in Spain, so no American fútbol fans were affected.

La Liga defended its tactics in El Diario, saying that illegal streams cost them “losses of more than 150 million euros.” The league also said that the only data it gathers are statistical, not personal; that is, any audio and geographical data simply get turned into data points. The app isn’t actively listening to what its users are saying.

And finally, La Liga said that the only affected users were those who opted in to La Liga’s ability to activate the microphone and gather GPS data. Of course, that’s the tricky part. La Liga app users opted in while agreeing to the app’s Terms and Conditions — where the GPS and audio agreement were just a few sentences in a sea of tiny words, that almost nobody reads.

Europe’s new privacy laws, the GDPR, prohibit this sort of practice. Users must be able to easily and clearly understand what they’re signing, before they agree to terms, according to the GDPR.

If La Liga is any indicator, soccer fans around the world might want to take a look at the fine print of their streaming app user agreements, with the World Cup just days away.

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