Flagrant foul? Mobile app user accuses NBA's Warriors of spying on conversations

A Golden State Warriors team app opens up mobile devices' microphones to listen for specially transmitted audio signals, but may also be picking up users' conversations, a new legal filing alleges.
A Golden State Warriors team app opens up mobile devices' microphones to listen for specially transmitted audio signals, but may also be picking up users' conversations, a new legal filing alleges.

A New York woman has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Golden State Warriors, accusing the NBA franchise of distributing a mobile content app that invades users' privacy by turning on a device's microphone and eavesdropping on the audio it picks up.

In a motion filed this week in a San Francisco-based federal District Court, plaintiff LaTisha Satchell alleges that the app uses a technology called audio beacons to track users' movements in physical spaces in order to deliver location-based targeted advertisements. Satchell is also suing the manufacturer of this technology, New York-based Signal360, as well as the app developer, Pittsburgh-based Yinzcam.

According to the filing, the team delivers targeted ads to app users when they physically approach a Signal360 speaker (placed around the Warriors' Oracle Arena, according to reports). Each speaker emits a unique audio signal that is tied to a specific location. But here's the catch: the app only knows when a device is in range of these special signals because the app automatically turns on the device's microphone and continuously listens for them, the complaint alleges. In doing so, the app may be constantly eavesdropping on users' conversations, the plaintiff claims.

"Unfortunately for consumers, defendants never inform them that their smartphones are being turned into listening devices nor do they ever seek consent," reads the complaint, which seeks statutory and punitive damages. (The app's permissions list does include a "Microphone" entry, but does not specify how the microphone is used.)

The filing also claims that the app – designed to deliver scores, news, and other team information – even listens when operating in the background, and only stops when it is fully closed or the device is turned off. SCMagazine.com has reached out to each of the defendants for comment; the Warriors have declined to comment on the pending litigation, per team policy.

“We have been made aware of the suit and it appears there is a misunderstanding about how our technology works," stated Lauren Cooley, COO of Signal360, in an emailed statement to The Mercury News. "Our technology does not intercept, store, transmit, or otherwise use any oral content for marketing purposes or for any other purpose."

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