Weather Channel app accused of selling users’ personal data

Los Angeles sues the Weather Channel app for misleading users

"TWC is able to convince approximately 80% of the Weather Channel App's users to grant access to their geolocation data". That might be the forecast if you're using an app to check the weather.

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.

The lawsuit follows a bombshell report last month that said the Weather Channel, GasBuddy and Weather Bug collect extensive data from users without their consent.

The Weather Channel app is not the first weather-related mobile app caught collecting and sharing users' geolocation data.

"The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data", a company representative said in response to the lawsuit "The disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously".

In a new lawsuit filed this week (PDF), the city of Los Angeles alleges that the Weather Channel app has deceived its users into sharing their location with the IBM-owned company for weather data but instead has been amassing their personal location data for profit. "If the cost of a weather forecast will be the sacrifice of deeply private information - like precisely where we are, day and night - it must be clear, in advance".

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The lawsuit pulls IBM into the broader conversation about how tech companies use consumer data that has roiled the industry in the past two years and prompted intense questions from politicians, users and regulators.

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". "But we allege TWC elevates corporate profits over users' privacy, misleading them into allowing their movements to be tracked, 24/7".

City Attorney Michael Feuer said Friday that users of the popular app are misled to think their location data will only be used for personalized forecasts and alerts.

Mobile apps and high-tech companies like Google and Facebook have also faced scrutiny in the a year ago for similar reasons - tracking personal data of its users, according to the report.

The suit is looking for civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation of the law, per the Times, which could collectively total millions of dollars in fines for the Weather Company given the number of California residents who potentially have the app.

'In fact, unbeknownst to its users, TWC's core business is amassing and profiting from user location data, ' it continues.

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