Weather Channel app accused of selling users’ personal data

Weather Channel app accused of selling users’ personal data

Weather Channel app accused of selling users’ personal data

The prosecutors in their petition have argued that the app, which is owned by IBM, unfairly manipulated the innocent app users into tracking their location in lieu of giving them personalised weather updates and alerts.

"When seeking users' permission to track geolocation data, the app does not disclose to users that [the Weather Channel] will transmit that data to third parties, nor that the data will be used for advertising and other commercial purposes bearing no relation to weather or the services provided by the app", the lawsuit reads.

Depending on how the lawsuit filed Thursday plays out, it could come as a serious credibility and financial blow, not just to the Weather Company, but also IBM.

But Feuer said TWC "elevates corporate profits over users' privacy" by sharing that data with third-party companies, including advertisers. This could amount to millions of dollars given the potential number of Californians who may use The Weather Channel app.

About 80 percent of Weather Channel app users grant access to their geolocation data, and their movements are tracked "in minute detail", the complaint said.

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

"On information and belief, TWC intentionally obscures this information 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".

LA City Attorney Michael Feuer asked the superior court to enjoin the deceptive and unfair business practices, and fine the company $2,500 for each violation, doubled if committed against elderly or disabled people.

Feuer said the company stopped sharing information with hedge funds following the story last month by The Times that highlighted the practice.

"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", said Feuer in a statement.

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

Feuer seeks the injunction and penalties "to punish TWC for its egregious conduct and to deter TWC from engaging in the same or similar conduct in the future". 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.

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