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Sonos will deny updates to those who snub rewritten privacy terms

Your data, or we cut you off

Sonos, the maker of networked speakers, plans to revise its privacy policy next week, and customers who decline to accept the changes will no longer be able to download future software updates.

Craig Shelburne, chief legal officer for the company, shared Sonos' plan in a blog post on Tuesday, characterizing the change as an effort to improve how customers experience its products.

Sonos has always collected functional data from its devices. "If you choose to authorize Spotify," a company spokesperson explained in a phone interview with The Register, "we need to share information with Spotify."

But now it intends to collect more, partly as a consequence of new capabilities like voice control – which involves a third-party partner in the form of Amazon – and partly to better understand how its devices are used.

Customers will be able to opt out of providing some data, but not all of it. Required functional information includes:

Registration data:

Email address, location, language preference, product serial number, IP address, and Sonos account login information.

System data:

Product type, controller device type, operating system of controller, software version information, content source (audio line in), signal input (for example, whether your TV outputs a specific audio signal such as Dolby to your Sonos system), information about Wi-Fi antennas, audio settings (such as equalization or stereo pair), product orientation, room names you have assigned to your Sonos product, whether your product has been tuned using Sonos Trueplay technology, and error information.

"If you choose not to provide the functional data, you won't be able to receive software updates," the Sonos spokesperson explained. "It's not like if you don't accept it, we'd be shutting down your device or intentionally bricking it."

It's more like deprecating your Sonos system. The speakers and associated app will still function, but will not see further improvements or security fixes. And the app may get left behind by future updates to Android, iOS, macOS, or Windows.

Sonos' decision to insist that customers accept its revised privacy policy or cease being supported customers offers a reminder that concepts of ownership don't hold in the digital world or when physical products integrate digital interfaces.

In their book, "The End of Ownership" [PDF], Aaron Perzanowski, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, and Jason Schultz, a law professor at New York University, observe that people today operate in a market that offers a choice between ownership of physical goods and conditional access to digital goods.

"The most immediate consequence of nonownership is the long list of substantive rights we lose," they wrote. "The prohibitions found in most EULAs and enforced by most DRM contrast starkly with the default rules of private property. You can't resell a product you don't own. You can't lend it, give it away, or donate it. You can't read, watch, or listen on unapproved devices. You can't modify or repair the devices you use." ®

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