In the midst of World Cup fever comes news of a popular European soccer app asking users for microphone and GPS permissions in order to enforce copyrights.
Ars Technica reports on the controversial update for the official Android app for the Spanish soccer league La Liga, which boasts 10 million downloads in the Google Play marketplace. The purpose of the special permissions request is, with users’ phones, to try to identify public venues that broadcast soccer games without a license.
According to the app founders, if users grant authorization, there are appropriate technical measures in place to protect user’s privacy. For example, the microphone and geolocation will only be activated during La Liga game time slots; it cannot access audio fragments captured by the microphone because they’re automatically converted into binary code and can’t be converted to sound; and the codes don’t refer to the user’s name, only to the IP address and assigned ID when the user first registered.
“Without more details and a technical analysis of the app, it’s hard to evaluate the claims about collected audio being converted to a binary format that can’t be converted back into sound. That alone should be enough reason for users to reject this permission.”
Furthermore, states Ars, when an app collects the IP address, unique app ID, binary representation of audio, and the time that the audio was converted, over time, it adds up to a fair amount of information. Also, should the user be helping a company police copyrights?
“[E]nd users frequenting local bars and restaurants shouldn’t be put in the position of policing the copyrights of sports leagues, particularly with an app that uses processed audio from their omnipresent phone.”
Per Google Play requirements, apps are required to prominently disclose any collection of personal or sensitive user data. Apps must also present the consent dialog in a “clear and unambiguous way.” This leaves it up to users, says Ars, to select “no.”