Weather Channel app sued over alleged mining of users’ data


"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.

According to the filing, the city claims that the app never disclosed that it would use personal information for monetization and for other purposes other than related to weather alerts or forecasts.

Location tracking is a particularly contested area when it comes to data-sharing: Businesses value the ability to use geographic information to cater relevant messages to nearby consumers - an increasingly pressing issue in the industry, as marketing personalization often comes up short - but collection practices can be especially invasive in regulators' eyes and come off as creepy to users. He says that users unwittingly agreed to further use of this data because details about how the app operator meant to use it were buried deep in a lengthy privacy policy document. "Unbeknownst to its users, TWC's core business is amassing and profiting from user location data".

Feuere said TWC Product and Technology sold user data to several websites and other companies that track user data and behavioral patterns.

"If the price of getting a weather report is going to be the sacrifice of your most personal information about where you spend your time day and night, you sure as heck ought to be told clearly in advance", LA city attorney Michael Feuer told the publication. That might be the forecast if you're using an app to check the weather.

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In 2018, the Associated Press published similar claims about Google while the ACLU accused Facebook of tracking people without permission.

The lawsuit argues the Weather Company violated the Unfair Competition Law by engaging in a number of fraudulent business acts and practices, and seeks up to $2,500 in damages per violation of every California user of the app, making the potential legal cost in the millions or billions.

IBM, which acquired the app in 2015, told the Verge: 'The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data; the disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously'.

Feuer concedes that users were informed about the sharing of data, but criticizes the lack of transparency.

The Weather Channel app is used by 45 million people a month and was the most downloaded weather app from 2014 to 2017, according to data cited in the complaint. The lawsuit says that the data was used to delivered targeted advertising and also to analyze consumer behaviour.