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Popular Spanish Soccer Mobile App Has Been Turning Users Into Piracy-Spotters Via Mobile Devices


As readers here will already know, the GDPR is now in full swing in Europe, with all of its crippling and stupid regulation in the name of personal privacy. It's a hilariously overly broad law that has had the happy coincidental effect of forcing companies that store personal data to at least be more upfront about how they are using that data. This effect has caused some to embrace the GDPR as wholly good, which is exactly the wrong conclusion to draw. Instead, the GDPR swings way too far in the direction of users controlling their personal data mostly by reaching way too far and keeping its language as vague and broad as possible, something that is already causing chaos in the digital marketplace.

And, yet, it cannot be ignored that the revelations of just how users' data are being abused by some bad actors keep coming. The latest of these concerns the mobile app for La Liga, Spain's most popular soccer league. La Liga recently revealed, having its hand forced by the GDPR, that users of its mobile app were unwittingly part of La Liga's spy network for uncovering unauthorized broadcasts of soccer matches at public venues.

The La Liga app, which is the official streaming app for Spain’s most popular football league, has reportedly been using the microphones on fans’ phones to root out unauthorized broadcasts of matches in public venues like bars and restaurants.

It sounds exactly like the kind of surveillance people are afraid of when it comes to modern technology, but as is often the case, the La Liga app technically asks users in Spain for permission to access their mics, according to Spanish Website El Diario.

Technically, yes, except that this request is buried in the fine print of an opt-in request the app makes for user permissions that nobody ever reads. One need only review the horror of many users of the app at this news to understand that many (most? all?) of the app's users had absolutely no idea that they were serving a soccer league's attempt at ratting out their favorite watering holes and restaurants. It also appears that this technique has been in place for years, and La Liga only drew recent attention to it due to the GDPR being enacted.

La Liga has pushed back on the concerns of its users and the press coverage, stating that it doesn't retain any of this data locally and that it converts the recordings into pure code, which is something of a non-sequitor. Either the data gathered is useful because it combines GPS data and audio recordings in a way that can pinpoint where a user is and what is on the television screens there... or it isn't. Whatever the technical specifics, the end result is a soccer league peeking in on soccer fans as they watch matches, with most of those fans having no idea that this was occurring at all.

Again, the GDPR is not a solution to this problem. For proof of that, you can note that La Liga says in its statements that everything here is above board. This has far more to do with just how much important privacy-implicating notifications are buried in fine print that goes unread by the masses.

Why anyone would download the La Liga app in the future would be a mystery to me.


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