Lisnr CEO says class action over Indianapolis Colts app 'just a really bad lawsuit'

By Carrie Salls | Nov 10, 2016

PITTSBURGH – The chief executive officer of Lisnr Inc. - one of three parties along with the Indianapolis Colts and Yinzcam named as defendants in a class action lawsuit claiming that a mobile app can listen in on the user’s conversations without consent - said the lawsuit contains a lot of false information.

“This is just really a bad lawsuit,” Lisnr CEO Rodney Williams told the Pennsylvania Record. “The allegations are false for a lot of reasons.”

Williams said the Colts app simply tries to help the user enjoy the game. In addition, he said Lisnr’s service is not a beacon, which allows audio to be recorded. Instead, he said, Lisnr is similar to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

“It’s not an app that has your data,” Williams said. “The only thing that’s relevant is whether you’re at the game and watching the game.”

Williams said the Colts started using the app in 2014, and that the organization is not at fault.

In addition, Williams said defendant Yinzcam is not the app developer, as was claimed in the lawsuit.

Williams said the lawyer group that is representing the plaintiffs is not new to this sort of lawsuit and that the group “made a reputation for this.”

“It’s unfortunate that the lawsuit is hurting the industry,” Williams said.

In the lawsuit filed Oct. 14 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the plaintiffs allege that the app runs afoul of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act because it allows personal phone conversations to be heard.

The suit claims the information gleaned from the private conversations is then used without the customer’s knowledge or consent for advertising purposes.

Alan Rackemann is named as the lead plaintiff in the class action. He alleges that the defendants knew the app could activate the microphone on his smartphone, giving them the ability to listen in on his conversations without his consent.

According to the complaint, the app, which allows Colts fans to receive team-specific statistics and news and other relevant information, uses Lisnr’s software to pinpoint the customer’s exact location by activating the smartphone’s microphone. The complaint alleges that the information is then sent to the Colts so the team can send location-based advertisements, promotions and other content.

The plaintiff alleges in the lawsuit that, once the microphone is activated by the app, it records all audio with no way for users to opt out of the recording.

Since beacon tracking is known to be “inherently invasive,” industry standards dictate that consumers be given the ability to opt in to beacon tracking, the lawsuit said. That option is often accomplished through the phone’s protocol or through the developer’s mobile app itself.

Since Lisnr requires a microphone to continuously listen for its audio signals, the plaintiff alleges “Lisnr involuntarily enlists thousands of sports fans that have downloaded and installed apps from their favorite teams.”

“Unfortunately for consumers, defendants never inform them that their smartphones are being turned into listening devices, nor do they ever seek consent,” the lawsuit said.

Rackemann is represented by David S. Senoff and Anapol Weiss of Anapol Weiss in Philadelphia.

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