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A headphones company is being accused of sharing what you listen to

(BUSINESS NEWS) Bose is known for delivering a high-quality audio experience, but amidst new allegations of mishandling their customers’ information, their high-quality may be a big flop.

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From accessory to necessity

Headphones are a necessity, whether you’re blocking out background noise, jamming to your favorite tunes, or simply relaxing on a long flight, headphones are one of the first things we reach for in the morning when we’re packing up to head out for the day.

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With the addition of many wireless headphone options, comes the freedom to move around tangle-free and without worrying whether or not we have enough cord to reach from the seat pocket to our ears.

Bose in the hot seat

Bose, a leader in high-quality audio, offers a great set of wireless headphones, however, amidst new allegations, they may be hard-pressed to sell them.

A Bose customer alleges, in an Illinois federal court, that Bose has been a party to illegal data mining.

In fact, as the lawsuit reads, when you use Bose wireless headphones, along with the Bose Connect app on your smartphone, Bose collects information about the songs you listen to and allegedly transmits this data, along with other identifying information to third parties without the user’s knowledge or consent and allegedly breaks federal wiretap laws, local wiretapping statute and fraud laws, and carries out “intrusion on seclusion,” which is also a crime in the state.

Illegal data mining

As the lawsuit alleges, “Indeed, one’s personal audio selections – including music, radio broadcast, Podcast, and lecture choices – provide an incredible amount of insight into his or her personality, behavior, political views, and personal identity,” says the complaint, noting a person’s audio history may contain files like LGBT podcasts or Muslim call-to-prayer recordings.”

This could give these third-parties a significant amount of information about the user.

Collection of data through the app

The Bose Connect app is a partner app intended to give the user more control over their devices. It works more like a remote control, than a music player. The Bose Connect app is used with the following Bose products: QC35, SoundSport wireless, SoundSport Pulse wireless, QuietControl 30 and SoundLink wireless II (all headsets), as well as, wireless speaker models SoundLink Color II, SoundLink Revolve and SoundLink Revolve+.

The headphones can be used without the app

However, the app allows the user to customize certain aspects and features to their preference, such as the level of noise cancellation, making it an attractive feature to Bose enthusiasts.
According to Fortune, the privacy lawyer who filed the Bose lawsuit, Jay Edelson, believes companies should not be able to help themselves to consumer data just because they can. Edelson stated, “companies need to be transparent about the data they take and what they are doing with it, and get consent from their customers before monetizing their personal information.” Bose apparently missed this crucial piece of the puzzle by not asking for consent to share consumers’ information.

Sharing without consent

“Plaintiff [Kyle] Zak never provided his consent to Bose to monitor, collect, and transmit his Media Information. Nor did Plaintiff ever provide his consent to Bose to disclose his Media Information to any third party, let alone data miner Segment.io,” the lawsuit reads. I imagine this is the sentiment many other Bose users will share.

Bose is not the only offender

Keep in mind, however, that Bose is certainly not the first company to experience data mining woes. In fact, when you download the Bose Connect app, you need to have both GPS and Bluetooth turned on to use it. Others claim, as a counterargument to Zak’s lawsuit, there’s a section in the software detailing Bose’s privacy policy that clearly states that the app collects data and sends it to third parties.

I implore you to read those privacy statements before clicking “I agree.”

I think the lesson here is to be mindful of what technology you use and how you use it. All the features of a wireless, connected world, certainly make life easier and oftentimes more enjoyable, but at what price? Do you know what information your devices are sharing? Have your read your privacy policies?

If you haven’t, you might want to take a peek at some of them, as they are often making a great deal of money from data mining.Click To Tweet
At publication time, Bose had not released a statement concerning the lawsuit.

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Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Business News

Walmart+ hopes to beat Amazon at their own game

(BUSINESS NEWS) Walmart has long been trying to become a serious Amazon competitor. Is their new membership program the edge they need to make that happen?

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We at AG have been watching Walmart’s moves in the online grocery shopping market for a while now. Their latest attempt to usurp Amazon’s throne is called Walmart+, and it’s being billed as a competing service to Amazon Prime. For $98 per year, they’re offering perks like same-day home delivery from stores and discounts on fuel. Walmart+ is promising, but whether it will truly rival Prime remains to be seen. They’ve tried a few times now, but Walmart has yet to substantially threaten Amazon’s near-monopoly on internet retail.

In 2016, Walmart rolled out Jetblack, a startup from their Walmart Labs incubator, that offered a text message-based shopping experience. Jetblack charged an eye-popping $50 monthly membership fee and, perhaps because of this, it drew very few users. Jetblack was scrapped in May of this year, but not before hemorrhaging $2 billion. Reportedly, Walmart was losing nearly $15,000 yearly per member.

…Ouch.

Way before this, Walmart Labs also introduced a short lived food box subscription service – remember those? They called it Goodies Co., and it barely lasted a year before being killed in 2013.

Now flash forward to one year ago when Walmart submitted a patent for what they dubbed the “Fresh Online Experience”. This came after Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods brought the two retail behemoths into direct competition.

The FOE system would incorporate real images and 3D scans of store products. The patent goes on to propose that employees filling these online orders will photograph individual fresh items like produce or meat, presumably in order to build consumer confidence in their quality when buying online, rather than in person. However, this has the potential to be a labor-intensive and slow process for stores, and it remains to be seen if this will be worth it for Walmart.

It’s unclear exactly how much Walmart+ intends to take out of the Amazon Prime playbook. It hasn’t announced features like video and audio streaming, for instance. Certainly they’ll have big plans for incorporating the “Fresh Online Experience” in there somehow, and that could be a game changer for Walmart.

One thing is for sure, though: Walmart+ faces an uphill battle to climb out of Amazon Prime’s shadow. Honestly, it’s just hard to imagine Walmart really competing with an entity like Amazon. Roughly 40% of all online purchases in the U.S are made on Amazon, and it is almost synonymous with the concept of buying stuff on the internet in general.

Yet, it’s difficult to discuss Amazon’s success without also thinking about the enormous elephant in the warehouse that enables it; Amazon is becoming increasingly notorious for having inhumane working conditions. Their treatment of employees has incited boycotts and protests, most recently due to the company allegedly ignoring COVID-19 social distancing guidelines in their warehouse facilities. And spoiler alert, Walmart also exploits their workers. If there’s going to be a big, exciting disruption in online shopping any time soon, it’s hopefully going to be an ethical one.

Either way, it’s about time we stop thinking of Amazon as king of the jungle. Consumers and workers are begging for a change, and it’s only a matter of time until the right challenger steps forward. But let’s face it… that’s probably not going to be Walmart.

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Business News

Walmart teams up with ThredUp: The online market for second-hand fashion is heating up

(BUSINESS NEWS) Walmart has teamed up with a new partner to sell second hand clothes online, hopefully this partnership works out better than the last.

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In the beginning of May, Walmart announced its collaboration with ThredUp, the online secondhand fashion giant. The deal now allows users who order off ThredUp, through Walmart, to take advantage of big-box perks, such as free shipping and convenient returns at local franchises.

The alliance of the two stores is a good business deal for Walmart, whose effort to enter the fashion market has failed despite numerous attempts to embrace millennials. Walmart recently had no choice but to cut its losses and cancel a deal they made in 2018 with Jetblack, a text-based, world-at-your-fingertips shopping experience. The dominant grocery supermarket has also teamed up with notable celebrities like Ellen Degeneres, Kristen Bell, and Sofia Vergara to create fashion brands, but failed to create high traffic volume.

So, the attempt to pick up their clothing sales yet again may seem pointless. However, the difference with this deal is that, instead of investing (serving as a potential risk to lose capital), Walmart PARTNERED with ThredUp. Walmart is essentially opening up its fashion market, exchanging its notoriety for variety, while giving light to a smaller fish in the sea (ThredUp). It’s a win-win for both companies.

The collaboration does come with a price to smaller businesses whose doors have been forced shut due to the recent pandemic. The closures and restrictions have created a lack of game in the fashion market right now, and Walmart was quick to pick that up, expanding their clothing department and online services, at juuuuust the right time. For Walmart, a company that’s been looking to expand, this was the perfect opportunity.

Small thrift shops depend on in-person shopping, and many heartened thrifters believe the experience of secondhand buying can’t be replaced online. There’s something about walking into a hard to find, crowded thrift store, spending $9 and leaving with the two tops meant for you that you just can’t get online. The collaboration of Walmart and ThredUp do however, open up the door for secondhand fashion to many who would usually overlook the option. As so, as many other retailers watch what Walmart does, hopefully the partnership will also inspire a commercial way to expand into an eco-friendly, sustainable fashion market among other companies.

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Business News

Amazon sellers’ information will now be available to stop scams

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon cracks down on scammy sellers in the U.S by requiring sellers to list their real names and addresses on their accounts.

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Amazon scams

A Department of Homeland Security report to the President from January 2020 states, “Counterfeiting is no longer confined to street-corners and flea markets.” The report estimates that counterfeits made up over $500 billion in sales internationally in 2016. As one of the biggest third-party platforms, Amazon has one of the most “notorious” counterfeit problems, at least according to The Motley Fool. Even though they spent over $500 million in 2019 to combat fraud and abuse, the problem has not abated.

Seller information will be available to consumers.

Amazon recently announced to its sellers that effective September 1, a seller’s business name and address will be displayed on the Seller Profile page. This information is already made available to consumers in Europe, Japan, and Mexico. According to the announcement, Amazon is “making this change to ensure there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions.”

The United States makes up the biggest proportion of Amazon’s sellers. This move is to provide transparency, not only to consumers, but also to brands who are trying to go after counterfeits. The Washington Post reports, “”For Amazon to do this is a big deal,” said Rob Dunkel, CEO of the data analytics firm 3PM Solutions, which works with brands to spot counterfeits online.”

Consumers should still be on guard when shopping on Amazon.

This move by Amazon doesn’t mean that consumers can afford to let their guard down. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Before ordering from a third-party seller, check their reviews…not the product reviews, but the seller’s reviews.
  • As with any seller, if a price seems to be good to be true, it’s probably fake. Don’t buy from new accounts, especially those with thousands of items listed.
  • Look for “Fulfilled by Amazon” when using third-party sellers. Make sure the “A” is capitalized. Fulfilled by Amazon means that the item is shipped to one of their fulfillment centers. It’s a little safer when ordering from a third-party seller.
  • Always use Amazon for communications and transactions. This gives you some protection if you do get scammed.
  • Don’t give out your personal information to sellers as Amazon doesn’t require this.
  • Also, watch out for payment scams.

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