Colts Lose Round In Battle Over 'Eavesdropping' App

Siding against the Indianapolis Colts, a federal judge has ruled that the football team must face a lawsuit alleging that the team's mobile app eavesdropped on fans.

The ruling, issued Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the Southern District of Indiana, stems from a lawsuit filed last November by state resident Alan Rackemann. Pratt also ruled that beacon technology company Lisnr and tech company Adept Mobile must face suit.

Rackemann, who says he used the app between 2012 and 2016, alleged in his complaint that the Colts, Lisnr and Adept Mobile "programmed the app to turn on his smartphone's microphone and listen-in," without his consent. He contends that the companies violated the federal wiretap law, which prohibits interception of electronic communications without consent.

He alleged that starting in 2016, the Colts worked with Lisnr and Adept Mobile to integrate beacon techology into the app in order to send users ads and content based on their locations. The app activates phones' microphones in order to listen to Lisnr's beacons, following which it may display ads to consumers, the lawsuit alleges. But the app also allegedly "listens to and records all audio within range -- including consumer conversations," according to the complaint.

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The companies argued that the complaint should be dismissed at an early stage for several reasons, including that the allegations about intercepted conversations were too vague.

Pratt rejected that argument.

"Rackemann alleges that during the four years that the App was installed on his smartphone, he carried that device on his person, and would take his smartphone to places where he would not invite other people, and to places where he would have private conversations," Pratt wrote in a 19-page decision issued Friday. "While Rackemann may not, prior to discovery, be able to pinpoint the precise dates and times that his smartphone was activated to record, the court concludes that it may reasonably infer that at some point during a four-year period, Rackemann’s smartphone was activated while he was engaged in a private communication."

While the ruling allows Rackemann to proceed with the case, the Colts, Lisnr and Adept Mobile could still prevail at a later date.

The Colts aren't the only team facing suit over an app. The Golden State Warriors, along with Signal 360 and Yinzcam, are facing a similar lawsuit in California. That matter is pending in front of U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White.

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