Spain's LaLiga app used audio recognition tech to catch users


El Diario reports that the app has been downloaded 10 million times.

League officials did not inform users they were utilising the microphones in their mobiles to identify venues that were illegally showing top-flight games. What users did not know was that the app was using their device's Global Positioning System to track their location and its microphone to listen in on them.

LaLiga has been using the microphones of users of its app and geo-location technology to "spy" on bars showing Spanish domestic football games.

But it turns out, it wasn't Facebook listening to you that you should be anxious about, it was a certain soccer league in Spain.

Though La Liga admitted the app did record through users' phones, the league insisted the users had the option to opt-out of allowing the app to track phone location and access the microphone.

The technology, which works similarly to the "acoustic fingerprint" used by software such as song-identification app Shazam, is activated during LaLiga transmissions, recording in bursts of five seconds once per minute.

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If you accept the specific and optional box enabled for this objective, 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.

It's a devious method to keep an eye on pirates skirting their bills, but, as the AEPD ruled, it was also a violation of GDPR.

La Liga in a statement to El País (translated from Spanish) expressed disappointment in the decision and accused regulators of not properly understanding the technology involved.

Now Spain's national data protection agency (AEPD) has said this falls foul of data protection laws because it was not clear enough about telling users of the Android app about its "spying" capabilities.

La Liga plans to continue using its fans in that fight against piracy.

In a statement in response to the fine, LaLiga said "it profoundly disagrees" with the AEPD's decision and rejected the "unjust, unfounded and disproportionate" penalty.