LA City Sues Weather App Over Data Collection

The City of Los Angeles has filed a lawsuit against a popular US-based weather app, alleging it illegally sells user data to third parties.

LA city attorney, Mike Feuer, is claiming the Weather Channel app misled users in that most agreed to allow it access to their location data purely for personalized forecasts.

In reality, this data was also sold to websites for targeted ads and to hedge funds to assist with analysis of consumer behavior, according to the suit. At least a dozen websites over the past 19 months are said to have used the data to personalize advertising.

Feuer alleged that disclosure on this practice is hidden away in a 10,000-word privacy policy.

“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,” he argued. “But we allege TWC elevates corporate profits over users’ privacy, misleading them into allowing their movements to be tracked, 24/7. We’re acting to stop this alleged deceit.”

With an estimated 45 million monthly users, the app claims to be “the world’s most downloaded weather app” and is operated by TWC Product and Technology, but owned by IBM. It allegedly collects over one billion pieces of user location data every week.

The tech giant bought the digital assets of the Weather Company for $2bn back in 2015, although the TV channel is owned by a separate entity.

“The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data; the disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously,” it said in a reported statement.

The lawsuit is seeking an injunction to prevent the app from allegedly “deceptively collecting and selling personal data,” and civil penalties of $2500 per violation.

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