Spain: Controversial decision on Apps

By Diego Ramos

Spanish football fans could hardly be described as lonely hearts. They adore to watch the matches of their favorite La Liga team together with other fellow fans. If possible, enjoying tasty “tapas” and drinks in a typical Spanish bar. To displays the matches, bars shall be holding a special license, subject to different terms than the ones purchased by homes. Most bars do so, some do not. Knowing which ones are missing the required license may be a challenge in a country that has close to 300,000 bars. How to find them? La Liga arrived to a working solution. Fans love the official App of La Liga and download it in droves. Wherever there is a bar showing a match in Spain, La Liga App will be there. By allowing the App to collect the background sound coming from the TV and comparing it with the sound of the broadcasting of the current matches you can determine whether a given match is being showed at a given place. By allowing the App to collect the geo-location data of the user and comparing it with a databases of the licensed homes and bars, it can be found whether the display of the match is legitimate or should be further investigated. In order to limit the impact on privacy, La Liga allegedly applied technologies that selected only the sound of the live broadcast of the matches, avoiding to collect the rest of the background noise, conversations, etc. Furthermore, consent from users was carefully sought (at two different stages, according to La Liga). However, the Spanish Data Protection Commissioner (Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, “AEPD“), decided earlier this week to impose a €250,000 fine to La Liga for allegedly breaching the transparency obligations under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR“). The procedure had lasted almost a full year, being one the first ones with a high media profile applying the new EU privacy framework. La Liga has issued a press release (that can be found here), announcing an appeal in front of the Spanish courts and the discontinuation of the controversial functionality as from 30 June 2019. The AEPD may publish the full text of the decision soon and this will allow a more detailed analysis of the case. Furthermore, it would provide material insight on how AEPD may interpret transparency over the next years in Spain.