The top football division in Spain, La Liga, has been given a fine of €250,000 (around £225,000) after it was found using fans’ smart phones as eavesdropping devices. La Liga was accused of using these smart phones come eavesdropping devices in an attempt to crack down on pirated TV signals in bars/restaurants screening football matches.

spanish league spying on fans

The Spanish football league used their app to remotely activate the microphone on users’ smart phones in order to listen for the sound of a match broadcast. They would then access the smart phone’s location services to cross reference the device’s location with the location of pubs/bars with a legitimate licence to show matches. From this they can then see exactly where potential illegal signals/streams are being shown.

Hundreds of bars and restaurants across Spain have been sued for illegally showing matches from the La Liga, this would indicate that they have been successful in eavesdropping on thousands of their fans.

La Liga should have informed users every time they were enabling a devices microphone, in not doing so they have committed a “very serious data protection infringement” – described by the Spanish data protection agency, AEPD, who issued the fine.

In previous statements, the football league has revealed that illegal signals/streams result in €400 million of lost revenue every year from television royalties. La Liga have also said that approximately half of the 120,000 bars and restaurants that are showing matches from the league have the correct hospitality package, the other half are using either illegal signals/streams or home packages that cost a fraction of the price.

In response, La Liga argues that it doesn’t have the ability to record audio from the app and that they use algorithms similar to that of a service like Shazam, an app that identifies songs by listening through your devices microphone. The difference being that the user is very aware what Shazam is doing, that it’s listening out for songs.

La Liga have confirmed that it will be stopping the use of the eavesdropping function of their app, but only because of reaching the end of a contract with their supplier, not as a result the AEPD’s fine.