La Liga fined €250,000 for app that listened in on users’ phones

12 Jun 2019

Image: © Ioan Panaite/

Spain’s top football league has been hit with a large fine for not telling users it could turn on their phones’ microphones and track their location.

The Spanish football league that features the club giants of Barcelona and Real Madrid, La Liga, is being fined €250,000 by the country’s data protection agency (AEPD).

According to El País (via Reuters), the issue surrounds the official smartphone app distributed by the league to keep fans informed of the latest scores and news. However, the agency stated that La Liga failed to notify users that the app could turn on their smartphone microphones and track their location at any time.

The app is particularly popular, with more than 10m downloads to date.

La Liga has refuted all charges brought by the AEPD and said that it has followed all EU data protection rules. It added that users were informed twice when they were downloading the app that they needed to give consent for access to the phone’s microphone.

Captured ‘audio fingerprints’

La Liga did say, however, that the microphones are used to capture ‘audio fingerprints’ in conjunction with a user’s location in its fight to clamp down on unlicensed broadcasts of its football matches. By combining the two pieces of information, the league believes it can find bars or locations where matches are being streamed illegally.

La Liga argues that piracy of its content costs it an estimated €400m annually in lost commercial and audiovisual rights.

In a statement, the league said: “La Liga 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.

“As a result, it will challenge the ruling in court to demonstrate that its actions have always been responsible and in accordance with the law.”

Despite challenging the ruling, La Liga said it will remove the microphone feature from the app by the end of this month.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic