LA sues Weather Channel app owner over 'fraudulent' data use

Ivan Schwartz
January 5, 2019

The suit alleges that The Weather Company is actually motivated by sending this data to "IBM affiliates and other third parties for advertising and other commercial purposes entirely unrelated to either weather or the Weather Channel App's services".

The Weather Channel is owned by a company other than IBM, which purchased the app and other Weather Channel digital assets for $2 billion in 2015, according to the AP report.

TWC's app doesn't just track anonymous data like your general area (such as your city or state) - it tracks your zip code, and your "minute", moment-to-moment movements whether you're using the app or not. TWC's app was targeted, he said, because it touches all demographics and seems benign and innocuous, because the company claims to have the largest trove of geolocation data and because the company did little to change its practices in the wake of the New York Times expose.

Los Angeles prosecutors say they're suing operators of The Weather Channel mobile app to stop it from tracking the whereabouts of app users and selling the data to third parties.

"When seeking consent for geolocation tracking, the app does not reference or link to any other sections of the app for more information on that topic, or give users any reason to believe that their location data will be used for anything other than personalized local weather data, alerts and forecasts", the lawsuit said.

"TWC intentionally obscures this information" in a 10,000-word privacy policy "because it recognizes that many users would not permit the Weather Channel App to track their geolocation if they knew the true uses of that data", the complaint goes on to say. "If you want to sacrifice to that company that information, you sure ought to be doing it with clear advanced notice of what's at stake", Michael Feuer, said according to a report by the Associated Press.

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Feure said he hopes the recent lawsuit against the Weather Channel app will help curb any other apps from obtaining data from its users and turning it around for profit.

The lawsuit comes as companies such as Facebook and Google are under fire for sharing users' information.

The lawsuit seeks civil penalties up to $2,500 for each violation by the Weather Channel.

More than 1,000 apps contain location-sharing code created by companies who share it with advertisers.

"The disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously", Edward Barbini, vice president of corporate communication at IBM, said in an emailed statement.

Other reports by GizPress

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