AirPods Live Listen – Hearing Aid or Secret Spy Tool?


Most likely by now, you’ve heard about it in the news or seen it in your Facebook feed. The world is currently buzzing about people turning their Apple products into intricate spying devices, secret agent style. With a reputation for streamlining technology, Apple’s new “hearing aids,” AirPods, offer the freedom to listen to music and media wirelessly via Bluetooth. To do so, a new feature, known as AirPods Live Listen, is needed. Apple describes the feature as:

[callout2]”With Live Listen, your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch becomes a remote microphone that sends sound to your Made for iPhone hearing aid. Live Listen can help you hear a conversation in a noisy room or hear someone speaking across the room.”[/callout2]
You’re probably thinking what we’re thinking. That sounds… dangerous! Although the AirPods Live Listen feature sounds great (pun intended) in theory, it raises concerns. Through Bluetooth, the owner of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod can leave their device unattended in one room and listen in on any conversations happening there via this feature. Since it’s just an innocuous phone present in the room, others having a conversation there may not know they’re being eavesdropped on.

When the Live Listen feature went viral on Twitter, users quickly came to the conclusion that they could use this new feature for less than ideal purposes, such as cheating on tests or listening in on conversations they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. In Michigan, we have eavesdropping laws, and the AirPods Live Listen feature, used for these types of purposes, teeters closely to the line of breaking these laws.

Michigan Eavesdropping Laws

Long before the invention of AirPods, Live Listen, or the Apple corporation altogether existed, Michigan has had eavesdropping laws in place. And with technologic advancements happening all the time, such as those discussed here, it’s important to revisit these laws. For people engaging in a conversation directly with one another, it’s legal to make a recording, even without the other party’s consent. However, it’s always courteous to notify them of your recording. For a third-party not included in the conversation who happens to be listening in via AirPods Live Listen feature or otherwise, recording the conversation is against the law. In fact, any violation of eavesdropping laws opens the guilty party to potential felony charges and civil suits.

Tom Sinas, Grand Rapids personal injury lawyer, appeared on Fox 17 Know the Law recently to unpack these laws.

Fox 17 Know the Law – Michigan Eavesdropping Laws from Sinas Dramis Law Firm

Now, you can probably see how the AirPods Live Listen feature may become problematic. Yes, it may improve hearing in loud settings, which is Apple’s biggest benefit claim. However, it can also be used unlawfully when a recording is made against another’s consent. The bottom line is, use this feature for its intended purposes and leave the spy stuff to 007.