This Spanish soccer app just admitted to spying on fans to track illegal streams

By Melissa Locker

June 12, 2018

Most apps and websites deny that they spy on their users, brushing off ads that mirror IRL conversations as targeted advertising or paranoia. Now, at least one app has ‘fessed up. The La Líga app, which is the official streaming app of Spain’s La Liga soccer league, just admitted to spying on users—and turning them into narcs to boot.

As originally reported by the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario, the app turns on users’ microphone when the phone’s GPS detects that they are in a bar. It then listens to see if they are watching an illegal stream of an Atlético Madrid match or a Barça game. While the La Liga app technically asks users in Spain for permission to access their mics, who the heck reads the fine print when they are downloading an app? The startling use of their users’ phones only came to light thanks to GDPR, which makes it easier for users to know what they are agreeing to when they click yes.

La Liga is trying to justify its behavior on the grounds that pirated broadcasts cost the company “losses of more than 150 million euros.” It claims the app only uses a device’s microphones “to develop statistical patterns on soccer consumption and to detect fraudulent operations of the retransmissions of La Liga football matches.” The app reportedly doesn’t record or save any data locally. That may not be enough to save it, though. While users in the U.S. aren’t affected, millions of people in Spain have downloaded the app, and the Spanish Agency for Data Protection (AEPD) has now opened a preliminary investigation into the activity.