City of LA sues Weather Channel over location data

Weather Channel App

The Weather Channel app claims to be "the world's most downloaded weather app" with around 45 million monthly active users. Google insisted it didn't use location data harvested from cell towers though it said it discontinued the practice.

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. Specifically, the information has reportedly been given to IBM (the company that owns TWC) affiliates for advertising and market research purposes. "[The Weather Channel] has then profited from that data, using it and monetizing it for purposes entirely unrelated to weather".

IBM responded to the Times saying: "The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data; the disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously".

Feuer alleged the Weather Channel intentionally obscured its motives in a lengthy privacy policy that got four-fifths of users to agree to share geolocation data.

"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.

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The IBM-owned Weather Channel app has been transmitting its users' precise geolocation data to advertisers and other third parties despite telling users that their location data was needed only for providing local weather data, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by California government officials.

Feuer said the information amassed "is allegedly used for targeted advertisements by at least a dozen third party websites over the past 19 months based on locations users frequent, and has been by hedge funds interested in analyzing consumer behavior". These weather often keep a track of our location in order to provide us the most accurate weather updates they can.

The suit also alleges that the Weather Channel app tracks users "in minute detail" even when they are not using it, allowing the company to work out their consumer preferences and daily habits for ad-targeting purposes.

Notably, data privacy is increasingly becoming a cause of concern for the lawmakers with major tech companies including Facebook and Google being subjected to intensive questioning by not only by the lawmakers in the United States and the European Union but also governments across the globe.

"The issue of our privacy in the digital age is one of the most fundamental issues we confront today", he said.

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