Spanish football app La Liga has made its users involuntary scammers

Published on June 20, 2018

Spanish football app La Liga has made its users involuntary scammers

    A popular football app with more than 10 million downloads during its next update unexpectedly asked Android smartphone users for permission to interact with a microphone and GPS.

    imageWhile people all over the world are following with enthusiasm the developments at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, millions of the most active football fans have probably met for the first time in their life with such a clear threat of surveillance. A piquant feature of the situation turned out to be that every person faced with this problem could theoretically not only suffer himself, but also expose to the threat of an unspecified circle of people nearby.

    Journalists of several publications found outthat the La Liga application has organized a whole spy network through its users' mobile devices. During installation on smartphones running Android, the application requested access to the microphone and GPS sensor. This in theory means that the creators of La Liga are empowered at any time how to listen to conversations and music within a few meters of the phone, but also to determine the exact location where the audio activity was recorded.

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    The application gained its popularity due to the ability to view scored goals and daily reports, first of all about the Spanish Football League, and then the World Championship. But it didn't provide any kind of interactive communication. An unexpected request for access to the microphone and the GPS sensor should cause concern to any technically-competent person, so the updated version of the application for La Liga football fans expectedly aroused users' suspicions.

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    If you allow access to such an application to a microphone and a GPS sensor, it can record the route of movement of each user on the server, as well as record telephone conversations and any sound activity around the device. Taking into account modern realities, one can only guess how the data obtained can be used, because technology allows us to identify a person by voice or steal a password by the sound of keystrokes.

    In response to the hype raised, Google representatives refrained from commenting, and the creators of La Liga confirmed the fact of recording conversations: they reported that in this way they are trying to find bars and other venues that broadcast football games without a license. The fact is that due to illegal shows, the Spanish league is allegedly losing about 150 million euros per year.

    According to the authors of the application, the privacy of users does not threaten anything. Supposedly, the microphone is turned on only during the matches, and the recorded audio fragments are not transmitted anywhere, but are converted into digital prints, from which the original sounds cannot be recovered, but can be compared with reference prints of football countries.

    Of course, the owners of media business can be understood, because the rights to broadcast, especially exclusive, are incredibly expensive, and they have to actively protect their investments. But at the same time, what happened was a precedent when the right holder turned millions of people into his unwitting and free agents to protect his intellectual property. Sounds ominous, isn’t it? But this is only if the real purpose of the “espionage” functional coincides with the voiced one, otherwise everything can turn out to be much worse.

    I suggest in the comments to share your stories about how your favorite application suddenly began to develop amateur activities or to collect information outside the zone of its direct functionality. How did you handle it?

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