La Liga, Spain’s top flight football league, has been fined €250,000 for using its mobile phone app to spy on millions of fans as part of a ploy to catch venues showing unlicensed broadcasts of matches.
The country’s data protection agency said the league’s app, which was marketed as a tool to track game scores, schedules and other news, was also systematically accessing phones’ microphones and geolocation data to listen in on userss surroundings during matches. When it detected that users were in bars, the app would record audio to determine if a game was being illegally shown at the venue.
The app has been reportedly downloaded more than 10 million times, although the league used the technology only on Android phones.
The agency found that La Liga did not adequately notify users about the app’s surveillance components and therefore violated the basic principle of transparency under the EU legislation.
La Liga will challenge the decision accusing the data protection agency of not making “the necessary effort to understand how the technology works.”
“These fraudulent activities represent an estimated loss of €150 million annually for Spanish football, which translates into direct damage for clubs, operators and fans, among others,” La Liga said.
La Liga claims that the software protects individual users’ rights because it doesn’t record, store or listen to conversations.
“All this technology was implemented to achieve a legitimate goal […] to fight against piracy,” La Liga added.