Sonos Speakers’ Sneaky Secrecy Snub

 Sonos, maker of  high quality networked speakers,recently made controversial revisions to its privacy policy and customers who refuse to accept the changes will find themselves with speakers that no longer work. Craig Shelburne, chief legal officer for the company, recently shared Sonos’ plan in a blog post characterizing the change as an effort to improve how customers experience its products. But there’s much more to this story.

The company had recently announced integration with voice responsive smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo. That sounds great, but as Sonos rolls out the integration it will begin collecting more customer data about audio settings, system errors and other account information of users. And if customers don’t agree, they won’t be able to update their speakers which means they will soon “cease to function.”

Unbeknownst to many of its customers, Sonos has collected functional data from its devices in the past. “If you choose to authorize Spotify, we need to share information with Spotify,” its spokesman has acknowledged.  “And if you choose not to provide the functional data, you won’t be able to receive software updates”  What is functional data?  That “functional data” includes email addresses, IP addresses, and account login information — as well as device data, information about Wi-Fi antennas and other hardware information, room names, and error data. In short,  existing customers will not be given an option to opt out of its new privacy policy, leaving customers with sound systems that may eventually “cease to function”.  So, if you don’t accept Sonos’ snooping terms, then you’ll soon find yourself with a very expensive paperweight, rather than a sound system.  Or, put another way,  Sonos’ will willfully destroy your property unless you comply and give up your privacy.

Worse yet,  the new Sonos policy requires that you agree to share information about your WiFi network, the devices that you use with the Sonos system, the names of rooms on your system, and your logins for integrated services with companies other than Sonos.

And this is a big problem, as recently noticed by two law professors.  In their book, “The End of Ownership” , Aaron Perzanowski, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, and Jason Schultz, a law professor at New York University, note that today’s market that offers a choice between ownership of physical goods and conditional access to digital goods.”The most immediate consequence of nonownership is the long list of substantive rights we lose,” they wrote. “The prohibitions found in most EULAs and enforced by most DRM contrast starkly with the default rules of private property. You can’t resell a product you don’t own. You can’t lend it, give it away, or donate it. You can’t read, watch, or listen on unapproved devices. You can’t modify or repair the devices you use.”

Yes, we are headed down a path where where devices in your home, traditionally our most private space, are largely controlled by other people who want to know what you’re doing.  Essentially, Sonos is informing customers that they must accept its new privacy policy or else those high-dollar wireless speakers will slowly die.  And, the even bigger problem, is that devices bought by consumers today will have a different privacy policy going forward than they did when they were purchased.  If you don’t accept the changes, then you lose use of your device…..and your investment.



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