Published: Mon, January 07, 2019
Money | By Arnold Ball

LA sues Weather Channel over app users' data

LA sues Weather Channel over app users' data

This could amount to millions of dollars given the potential number of Californians who may use The Weather Channel app. But even these "sections of the app are less than forthcoming regarding TWC's uses of geolocation data", with the advertising usage described vaguely and "scattered through various sections of the almost 10,000-word Privacy Policy", the complaint said.

According to a lawsuit filed by Los Angeles city attorney Mike Feuer (spotted by The Verge), TWC's dedicated mobile app may be improperly harvesting user data; similar to the Cambridge Analytica incident that took place some time ago.

IBM Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty has used the attention around data privacy to try and differentiate IBM from other tech companies, saying the dominant consumer tech platforms should face more scrutiny from regulators.

Although the app uses The Weather Channel's name, the product itself is run by a subsidiary under IBM, which bought The Weather Company in 2016.

"The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data", an IBM spokesperson told The New York Times.

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Feuer said The Weather Channel sold data to at least a dozen websites for targeted ads.

"We brought this lawsuit because we allege that the app covertly mines the private data of its users, and then it sends that information to third parties, like advertisers, and others, " Feuer said during a news conference at City Hall East to discuss the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday. These weather often keep a track of our location in order to provide us the most accurate weather updates they can.

"Unbeknownst to many users, the Weather Channel App has tracked users' detailed geolocation data for years, analyzing and/or transferring that data to third parties for a variety of commercial and advertising purposes, including for targeted advertisements based on locations users frequent, and for hedge funds interested in analyzing consumer behavior", the lawsuit said.

"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. "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.

After downloading the app, users are prompted to allow it to access their location data, but how that data will be shared isn't noted in the prompt.

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