LA Sues Weather Channel App Over Stealthy Data Collection

LA Sues Weather Channel App Over Stealthy Data Collection

"TWC is able to convince approximately 80% of the Weather Channel App's users to grant access to their geolocation data". But a new lawsuit from the City of Los Angeles claims the product is actually gathering your location data so IBM and other third-party groups can make money off it.

IBM Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty has used the attention around data privacy to try and differentiate IBM from other tech companies, saying the dominant consumer tech platforms should face more scrutiny from regulators. "[The Weather Channel] has then profited from that data, using it and monetizing it for purposes entirely unrelated to weather".

An IBM spokesman told the Times that the Weather Company has "always been transparent with use of location data" and that the businesses will "vigorously" defend their disclosures. 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.

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.

"The company transmits the data to third parties, including advertising and marketing companies, the complaint said.", the Weather Channel App transferred users' geolocation data to at least a dozen third-party websites over the past 19 months", the complaint said. "But we allege TWC elevates corporate profits over users' privacy, misleading them into allowing their movements to be tracked, 24/7".

"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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Feuer filed the lawsuit in response to a December report from The New York Times, which said mobile apps can get away with collecting your location data without offering much notice.

The lawsuit seeks the statutory penalty under California's Unfair Competition Law, up to $2,500 per violation, or twice that when the victim is disabled or a senior citizen.

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

The app collects location data on where users live and work, as well as the places they visit throughout the day and night, according to the suit.

The case "goes to the core of one of today's most fundamental issues ... privacy in the digital age", Feuer said in his statement.

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