LaLiga “strongly refutes” accusations that its app violates user privacy to detect piracy

LaLiga has strongly denied allegations from Spain’s national data protection agency (AEPD) that its official mobile app violates user privacy, after being hit with a €250,000 ($283,000/£222,000) fine by the body. 

The app, which has been downloaded over 10 million times by Spanish football fans worldwide, is alleged by the AEPD to have failed to adequately inform users that it was activating their smartphones’ microphones and monitoring their locations to detect pirated streams. 

However, in a statement sent to SportBusiness Professional, LaLiga protests that users must “expressly, proactively and on two occasions grant their consent” for the app to access the microphone and location data, and adds that no audio is recorded, stored, or listened to by another person at any time. The league has confirmed that it intends to appeal the ruling in court.

“LaLiga disagrees profoundly with this decision, rejects the penalty imposed as unjust, unfounded and disproportionate, and considers that the AEPD has not made the necessary efforts to understand how the technology works,” the statement reads. “As a result, [LaLiga] will challenge the ruling in court to demonstrate that its actions have always been responsible and in accordance with the law.

The technology, which works similarly to the ‘acoustic fingerprint’ used by software such as song-identification app Shazam, is activated during LaLiga transmissions, recording in bursts of five seconds once per minute. It reviews audio signals of broadcasts and checks them against LaLiga’s register in order to check if a pirated signal is being used. The AEPD has requested that LaLiga make it clear to the user when this process is taking place; however, the functionality was already due to be retired on 30 June this year and will be removed.

LaLiga estimates that piracy costs the league as much as €400m each year, and has reiterated its commitment to “test and implement new technologies and innovations that allow it to improve the experience of football fans around the world and, at the same time, help it in its fight against the very serious scourge of piracy”.