Sonos updates its privacy policy and seemingly hints they’ll begin selling user data

Audio brand Sonos is ruffling the feathers of its user base again after it was discovered the company had made an important update to its private policy. As pointed out by YouTuber and repair technician Louis Rossman, the change affects the “How We May Share Personal Information” section. 

The old policy had a line that read, “Sonos does not and will not sell personal information about our customers.” After that, the rest of the paragraph discussed how certain data practices could be considered as a “sale of data” in certain US states.

Now, if you look at the June 2024 update, the line about Sonos not selling personal data is gone. The rest of the paragraph regarding data practices is exactly the same, though. 

It may be one small change, but it was enough to start a wildfire among the user base. People are not happy at all. Rossman’s video was posted to the Sonos subreddit, and its comment section is a non-stop barrage of people criticizing the brand.

Privacy worries

Users in the post seem to believe the policy change means Sonos will begin selling customer data to third parties. One person argues the brand is alienating its loyal customer base and wants to rebuild its business “with consumers who just don’t care about privacy.” These sentiments are echoed by others, and as you can see, the overall attitude is very cynical.

Interestingly, the line seems to only be gone in the US policy. We checked the Canadian, Spanish, British, and Australian privacy pages and that line about Sonos not selling customer information is still there and is in bold text. 

It’s unknown why only the American policy was changed. A comment we saw online argues that it could be because consumer protection laws in other countries may be more strict than those in the US.

Analysis: benefit of the doubt

You can’t really blame these consumers too much for such a negative reaction. Internet privacy and data collection have been hot topics for many years as people worry about big tech spying on them. It’s a major concern that has proven itself to be legitimate over time. Plus, Sonos users haven’t been too happy with the brand after being burned by a recent app update that removed basic features. 

However, it’s possible that people are just blowing things out of proportion. The removal of the first line doesn’t necessarily mean Sonos is selling customer data to make a quick buck. In fact, this whole situation reminds us a lot of what happened to Adobe.

If you’re not aware, Adobe also changed its Terms of Use policy not too long ago. The policy had text that led users to believe the company would be taking the content they made to train their AI. Adobe has since clarified the wording in the update, assuring their customers that it won’t actually look at or take anything. It was all one big misunderstanding.

We’re going to give Sonos the benefit of the doubt here and assume this is just a misunderstanding and that the policy change was some legal thing they had to do in the US. To learn more, we reached out to Sonos, asking if it could clarify what the change means to its users and we'll update this story if we hear back.

Til then, check out TechRadar's list of the best Bluetooth speakers for 2024.

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Google changed its privacy policy to reflect Bard AI’s data collecting, and we’re spooked

Google just changed the wording of its privacy policy, and it’s quite an eye-opening adjustment that has been applied to encompass the AI tech the firm is working with.

As TechSpot reports, there’s a section of the privacy policy where Google discusses how it collects information (about you) from publicly accessible sources, and clarifying that, there’s a note that reads: “For example, we may collect information that’s publicly available online or from other public sources to help train Google’s AI models and build products and features, like Google Translate, Bard and Cloud AI capabilities.”

Preivously, that paragraph read that the publicly available info would be used to train “language models” and only mentioned Google Translate.

So, this section has been expanded to make it clear that training is happening with AI models and Bard.

It’s a telling change, and basically points out that anything you post online publicly  may be picked up and used by Google's Bard AI.


Analysis: So what about privacy, plagiarism, and other concerns?

We already knew that Google’s Bard, and indeed Microsoft’s Bing AI for that matter, are essentially giant data hoovers, extracting and crunching online content from all over the web to refine conclusions on every topic under the sun that they might be questioned on.

This change to Google’s privacy policy makes it crystal clear that its AI is operating in this manner, and seeing it in cold, hard, text on the screen, may make some folks step back and question this a bit more.

After all, Google has had Bard out for a while now, so has been working in this manner for some time, and has only just decided to update its policy? That in itself seems pretty sly.

Don’t want stuff you’ve posted online where other people can see it to be used to train Google’s big AI machinery? Well, tough. If it’s out there, it’s fair game, and if you want to argue with Google, good luck with that. Despite the obvious concerns around not just basic privacy issues, but plagiarism (if an AI reply uses content written by others, picked up by Bard’s training) – where do any boundaries lie with the latter? Of course, it’d be impractical (or indeed impossible) to police that anyway.

There are broader issues around accuracy and misinformation when data is scraped from the web in a major-scale fashion, too, of course.

On top of this, there are worries recently expressed by platforms like Reddit and Twitter, with Elon Musk apparently taking a stand against “scraping people’s public Twitter data to build AI models” with those frustrating limitations that have just been brought in (which could be big win for Zuckerberg and Threads, ultimately).

All of this is a huge minefield, really, but the big tech outfits making big strides with their LLM (large language model) data-scraping AIs are simply forging ahead, all eyes on their rivals and the race to establish themselves at the forefront, seemingly with barely a thought about how some of the practical side of this equation will play out.

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