The Spanish Association of Football Clubs, “La Liga” has been the first organization to receive an exemplary fine for non-compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Spain.

The mobile application, subject to the complaint and subsequent fine, used the users’ microphones and their GPS location in order to capture illegal transmissions of football league matches in public premises (we reported in 2018). According to La Liga, the illegal transmission of matches represents a loss of 400 million Euros per year.

The fine was imposed on the basis of two legal considerations: on the one hand, because, according to the Agency, through its mobile application, La Liga does not comply with the principle of transparency because it does not clearly explain the details of the use of the microphone and the GPS location to its users. In particular, it does not indicate its users that the microphone is in use when that’s the case.  Secondly, the Agency states that La Liga violated Article 7.3 of the General Data Protection Regulation according to which data subjects have the right to revoke their consent at any time.

La Liga will lodge an appeal before the Spanish Courts (Audiencia Nacional) with regard to the Data Protection Agency’s decision because it considers, firstly, that the Agency does not understand the technology used to collect the audio data and wrongly considers such data as personal and, secondly, because it understands that it has complied with Article 7 of the RGPD by requesting the user’s express consent on two occasions before the microphone functionality can be activated.

The technology used to capture the transmission of matches consists, according to La Liga, of picking up the audio through the microphone and converting it into a code.  Given the recommendation of the Data Protection Agency that an icon be included to indicate to the user that he/she is being listened to, La Liga indicates that such an icon would be misleading as in reality, because of the technology being used, the user is not being listened to, rather, a sound print is being generated that only contains 0.75% of the information, discarding the remaining 99.25% and making it impossible to interpret the human voice or conversations.

La Liga will deactivate the microphone function of its mobile application on 30 June, coinciding with the end of the current season.

The judicial appeal prevents the Spanish Association of Football Clubs the possibility of reducing the fine imposed for early payment.

It will then be the Audiencia Nacional who determines if there was an infraction.  The ruling could take six months.