LaLiga fined for using mobile app to 'spy' on users watching illegal feeds of matches
Spanish soccer’s top-tier LaLiga was yesterday fined €250,000 ($283,406) by the AEPD, the country’s data protection agency, for ‘spying’ on mobile phone users by using the microphones on their devices to check if they were watching matches via illegal feeds.
LaLiga’s popular mobile app, used by more than 4 million fans to check scores, schedules and news, could also track users’ locations and activate their microphones remotely.
The agency levied the fine after the league admitted that it had implemented the feature with the specific purpose of tracking down illicit streams via Android phones at public venues in Spain, ruling that the practice broke several EU laws about transparency and consent.
Although location tracking and microphone spying were included in the app’s permissions, there was no indication on users’ phones that this data was being collected during La Liga matches.
One permission was for access to user microphones and geopositioning “to detect fraud in the consumption of football in unauthorised public establishments”. But the AEPD said that additional information (such as a microphone icon) should have been provided every time sensitive data collection was activated.
The league said that it would remove the feature from the app by the end of this month, but that it would appeal against the fine.
In March, LaLiga cited further progress in the fight against piracy of its broadcasts, claiming that over 600 public establishments in the country had been prosecuted for illicitly showing matches on their premises.
It said that judgements handed down to owners of these properties for intellectual property theft included prison sentences of at least four months and fines to compensate LaLiga for damages, and the payment of procedural costs.
LaLiga has been one of the most active sports rights-holders in the battle against piracy, striving to pull the plug on websites showing its matches illegally around the world.
It has also been at the forefront of efforts by federations, leagues and other rights-holders to close down beoutQ, the Saudi Arabia-backed broadcaster that has been showing pirated content from BeIN, the Qatar-based international sports network.