L.A. Sues IBM's Weather Company over 'Deceptive' Weather Channel App

Devin Lawrence
January 7, 2019

In Canada, the app is number 5 under weather apps in iTunes' App Store and in Google Play the app has been downloaded over 100 million times. Specifically, the information has reportedly been given to IBM (the company that owns TWC) affiliates for advertising and market research purposes.

Although the app uses The Weather Channel's name, the product itself is run by a subsidiary under IBM, which bought The Weather Company in 2016.

The owner of The Weather Channel denies any impropriety with use of location data collected from users of its mobile app.

The complaint claims information about the company's practices are "intentionally" obscured "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".

The Weather Company dupes app users by collecting their precise geolocation data for ad-targeting purposes, the city of Los Angeles alleges in a new lawsuit.

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IBM Corp. issued a statement Friday in response to a lawsuit by the Los Angeles city attorney claiming app users are misled to think the data is only used for personalized weather information but it is actually sold to third parties. "This app seems to be benign; how many of you would suspect that to get a weather app, we would be tracked 24/7?" "If you want to sacrifice to that company that information, you sure ought to be doing it with clear advanced notice of what's at stake", Michael Feuer, said according to a report by the Associated Press.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the company from the practice it deems "unfair and fraudulent" and seeks penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation.

After downloading the app, users are prompted to allow it to access their location data, but how that data will be shared isn't noted in the prompt. The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has a lot to say about companies that take people's personal data for one objective but use it for another, and fines stretch as high as 4% of global revenue.

The complaint contends that "for years, TWC has deceptively used its Weather Channel APP to amass its users" private, personal geolocation data - tracking minute details about its users' locations throughout the day and night, all the while leading users to believe that their data will only be used to provide them with "personalized local weather data, alerts and forecasts'".

The lawsuit follows a report last month in the New York Times that delved into the extent to which mobile apps gather location data without adequate disclosure and a year of scrutiny of Facebook over its sharing of user data with partners and developers.

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