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Lawsuit claims Warriors’ app violates federal wiretap laws

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If you prefer privacy in the bedroom, boardroom or, um ... bathroom (if you’re one of those), you may want to turn your Warriors’ app off before doing or saying whatever.

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs - Game Four
“Yes, I turned the app off, Joe. What’s this all about?” (Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob with fiancée Nicole Curran at Game 4 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals against the Spurs on May 22, 2017 at AT&T Center.)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Last week, the Golden State Warriors issued a statement refuting claims made in a lawsuit by a fan that the team’s app violates federal privacy laws.

In a statement to SB Nation, the Warriors said, “While we normally do not comment on pending litigation, the allegations in this lawsuit are purely fanciful and wholly without merit. Our app has never been used to listen to any conversations. Period.”

At issue is the app’s microphone feature, which Warriors’ fan LaTisha Satchell claims was on, and recording at all times, without her knowledge.

According to a recent report in The Daily Beast:

The Warriors’ app bills itself as a way for fans to keep track of scores and stats. But while fans were watching the game, the app was watching them, fan LaTisha Satchell claims in a lawsuit. One of the app’s promotional tools allegedly turns a user’s phone microphone on and keeps it on, recording everything within earshot and relaying data back to the Warriors and a tech company, possibly in violation of wiretap laws.

Satchell’s suit claims the app gained access to “tens of thousands” of microphones on fans’ mobile phones, turning them into “bugged listening devices.”

The fan’s initial attempt to file the lawsuit in 2016 was thwarted by the court due to lack of evidence. For the lawsuit to now be accepted a year later implies additional evidence has been provided by Satchell’s legal team to defend her claims.

What that evidence might be is anyone’s guess, and if the case settles out of court, the public may never know the specifics. But how a case such as this one is decided could have lasting implications on the technology versus privacy debate.

Satchell’s specific claims

According to The Daily Beast, “In an amended complaint filed earlier this year, Satchell described the personal information the app could have intercepted, including conversations with her husband in their bedroom, private business meetings, and discussions with a loan officer.”

If Satchell’s team can prove that the “beacon” feature — while attempting to advertise products, up-sell services and market new experiences to fans — collected information unrelated to the Warriors as a byproduct of its functioning, the country will have on its hands a situation reminiscent of the NSA’s data sweep saga.

It is illegal for the U.S. government to cast a wide net to draw information from everybody “just in case,” and these laws apply to private companies as well. So, if the company behind the app did collect this data — even if it never used the information and gathered it without nefarious intent — then it acted in violation of federal law.

As with Golden State’s on-court concerns and player injuries this season, fans will have to wait and see if a district-court judge deems the Warriors’ organization complicit in these actions.