“If it’s happening, it’s right on your mobile” is the slogan given to the official mobile application of La Liga – the top-flight of Spanish soccer.
The phrase is meant to emphasize the live scores, highlights and news that the league delivers to user’s smartphones, but it could also describe a less-advertised feature of the app.
AEPD, the Spanish data protection agency, has fined La Liga $280,000 (€250,000) for an alleged ‘spy’ mode that used a device’s microphone to see if the owner was watching a football match using technology similar to Shazam – a service that is able to identify music.
If the app detected a match was being watched, it also accessed location data to see whether the venue in question was showing the match legally.
La Liga app
While the ethics of such an activity are open to interpretation, the AEPD considered the action to be a violation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Introduced in May 2018, GDPR requires organizations to be transparent about what data is processed and to obtain the relevant consent.
The AEPD ruled that users were not sufficiently informed that their microphone would be activated. In addition to the penalty, La Liga has also been told to introduce a mechanism that makes it clear to the user that the microphone is set to be accessed.