LISNR Responds to Lawsuit that Accuses App of Eavesdropping Without Consent
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UPDATED: Feb 18, 2017
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The Indianapolis Colts, mobile developer YinzCam and audio technology company LISNR were named in a class action lawsuit alleging that features of the team’s official app allowed them to listen in to private conversations without consent.
The lead plaintiff is Alan Rackemann, an Indiana resident who filed his suit against LISNR, Inc., YinzCam, Inc., and Indianapolis Colts, Inc. in United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Rackemann requests that the court prevent the nonconsensual listening and recording of consumer conversations and is pursuing punitive and statutory damages for violations under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Rackemann claims that he installed the app on his phone in 2012, but stopped using it once he realized that the app was “listening in” on his conversations. Rackemann asserts that the app activated the microphones on all users’ phones before and during the Colts’ home game in Indianapolis against the Chicago Bears on October 9.
Rackemann claims that LISNR “utilizes a novel beacon technology called audio beacons,” that “surreptitiously” turns on smartphone microphones and unlawfully listens in. Beacon technology is powered by low-energy Bluetooth and is able to pinpoint user location. It uses the information received to push ad-related content. Rackemann alleges that
Defendants programmed the App so that their audio-based beacon technology is able to listen in even when the App is not open, such as when a smartphone is locked or when its screen is powered down. As a result, Defendants ‘listening rules’ activate Microphones even when the App is only running in the background (e.g., when a smartphone is in a consumer’s pocket or purse.) Regardless of whether the App is being actively used or is running in the background, Defendants never obtained consent to begin listening in and consumers are still ignorant of when Defendants are listening.
Rackemann’s counsel is the San Francisco-based Edelson PC. Edelson PC filed a similar lawsuit focusing on the Golden State Warrior’s official team app.
Responding to the lawsuit, LISNR CEO and founder Rodney Williams stated, “It’s a lot of things that are fishy. … It’s a little bit of lawyers being opportunistic, and it’s a lot of false allegations and just bad information.” Williams denies LISNR’s association with beacon technology, saying, “We don’t have a beacon technology. … LISNR is not a beacon. We don’t make beacons.”
Williams explains that LISNR’s technology is similar to an early television remote. Just as a remote control would communicate with a television through radio frequencies, LISNR technology only wakes up when a recognizable frequency is sent over the air. Williams insists that LISNR does not record or listen; most of the time, it is not even active.
LISNR is considering a countersuit against Rackemann.
The Indianapolis Colts have not yet commented publicly on the lawsuit.
YinzCam founder and CEO Priya Narasimhan has stated that she expects the claims against her company to be dropped because the app that it developed did not include the features at issue. The Colt app’s developer added those features.
Photo Credit: LISNR Inc.,