Official LaLiga App Spied on Users to Catch Bars Illegally Streaming Soccer Games


A startling report details that the official LaLiga app was being used by the officials of the soccer league for spying and surveillance purposes. LaLiga is Spain’s top professional soccer league and the app is used by millions of people to follow the game, player rankings, statistics and more. The app was reportedly downloaded over 10 million times.

The official LaLiga app used to silently record audio through the phone’s microphone every time it detected that a user was in a bar. Using a technology similar to Shazam, the app would then try to determine if the user was watching the soccer game or not. Depending on the result, the officials would then determine the location of the bar and whether it had a license to play the game on television or not.

The Spanish Agency for Data Protection (AEPD) has fined La Liga 250,000 euros for this unethical behavior and serious infringement of user privacy.

Surprisingly, LaLiga is going to appeal the fine in court. It says that users were provided with the option to opt-out of location tracking and deny access to the microphone. It further claims that any captured audio is turned into a code that is not stored or listened to by any of its employees. Plus, the app’s terms of service did mention this aspect of recording audio and geopositioning for detecting fraudulent behavior.

As per AEPD, the app did not do a good job of informing users about this shady behavior and has thus violated their privacy. The order by the AEPD also asks LaLiga to take down its app by June 30.

Our Take

While La Liga is right that it mentioned this behavior of the app in its terms of service, I think its time that apps and services started highlighting such behavior separately to users.

No one really bothers to read the terms and conditions and most apps and services are able to get away with their shady behavior by burying such points in their terms and conditions page.