Spain’s top tier football league, LaLiga, which has gained popularity over the years across Africa, seems to have scored an own goal after it was revealed that it was using its app to spy on fans. To be more specific, this was revealed when the Spanish Agency for Data Protection (AEPD) fined LaLiga after it was revealed that its app would turn on users’ microphones to gather audio from their surroundings to determine if they were watching a LaLiga match and if the public venue they were watching the match at was licensed to do so.
LaLiga has been fined € 250,000 by the AEPD for violating users’ privacy despite saying that this was done to ascertain whether a bar was broadcasting a pirated live stream of a match. LaLiga has stated that it will appeal the decision and fine adding that it does not believe that the AEPD made the necessary effort to understand how the technology in its app works.
LaLiga’s main argument seems to hang on the fact that its app, which has been downloaded over 10 million times, allowed users to opt-out from having the app use their microphones and geolocation.
“If you accept the specific and optional box enabled for this purpose, you consent to the access and use of your mobile device’s microphone and geopositioning functionalities so that LaLiga knows from which locations football is being streamed and thus detect any fraudulent behaviour by unauthorised establishments. Activation of both the microphone and geopositioning of your mobile device will require your prior acceptance of our pop-up window,” reads part of the LaLiga app’s terms of service.
How it works
The audio recognition technology that the app uses is quite similar to that used by popular music recognition app Shazam. It generates a specific and unique sound fingerprint. According to LaLiga, this audio fingerprint is said to only contain 0.75% of the information, discarding the remaining 99.25%. As such, LaLiga argues that it doesn’t violate users’ privacy because they claim it is technically impossible to interpret or record the voice or human conversations from that.
After that, the remaining 0.75% of the audio is said to be transformed into an alphanumeric code (hash) that is apparently not reversible to the original sound.
LaLiga, despite announcing that it will appeal the fine and decision by AEPD, has since stated that it will no longer be using the feature to record users audio by the official end of the current football season on 30 June 2019.