Spanish football app turns users into unwitting surveillance operatives

Spain's got a stiffy for football, or soccer, if you must.

When a football match is on, just about everyone in the country loses their minds. TVs are gathered round, siestas are forgone, and team songs, in any bar you chance, will be full of scarf-swinging loons banging on tables and screaming for every goal. It’s loud, chaotic and lovely. For many Spaniards, catching a game while on the go involves downloading a smartphone app fronted by Spain’s national football league, Liga de Fútbol Profesional. Available for iOS and Android handsets, the La Liga app is not only licensed to stream football games, but also lets users keep track of the stats for their favorite teams and players.

Oh, it also tracks your every move and taps your smartphone's microphone, supposedly in the name of helping to root out unauthorized match broadcasts in bars, restaurants and cafes.

From El Dario, via Google Translate:

The Liga de Fútbol Profesional, the body that runs the most important sports competition in Spain, is using mobile phones of football fans to spy on bars and other public establishments that put matches for their clients. Millions of people in Spain have this application on their phone, which accumulates more than 10 million downloads, according to data from Google and Apple.

All of these people can become undercover informants for La Liga and the owners of football television broadcasting rights. If they give their consent for the app to use the device's microphone (which is common in many applications), they are actually giving permission for La Liga to remotely activate the phone's microphone and try to detect if what it sounds like is a bar or public establishment where a football match is being projected without paying the fee established by the chains that own the broadcasting rights. In addition, use the geolocation of the phone to locate exactly where that establishment is located.

But hey, good news! Where most developers would try to downplay user surveillance, La Liga is totally up front with the fact that they see their app's users are nothing but meatbags with GPS antennas. In a statement made to El Dario, the Liga de Fútbol Profesional assured them their app only collects data "without storing any recording or content," and only works inside of Spain.  Also, the data collected by the app will be used "only against the piracy of public places.”

Cool, cool, cool.

Image via Pixabay

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