Weather Channel app denies data wrongdoing

Los Angeles sues the Weather Channel app for misleading users

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, the LA official behind the lawsuit, said TWC allegedly sends user location information to affiliates of its parent company, IBM, and other third parties for advertising and other commercial purposes, in many cases unrelated to weather forecasts.

The lawsuit seeks civil penalties up to $2,500 for each violation by the Weather Channel.

"TWC intentionally obscures this information" in a 10,000-word privacy policy "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 complaint goes on to say.

The lawsuit says that the Weather Company misled users by asking them to turn on their location tracking so that it could deliver better information, and not providing the appropriate information. Feuer said it's premature to discuss how much a potential penalty might be.

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. But even these "sections of the app are less than forthcoming regarding TWC's uses of geolocation data", with the advertising usage described vaguely and "scattered through various sections of the almost 10,000-word Privacy Policy", the complaint said.

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The lawsuit, available in full detail here, was announced in a press conference today and targets IBM-owned TWC Product and Technology, LLC (TWC), the company behind the Weather Channel app. IBM said it would provide no other response to the lawsuit at this time.

The Weather Channel app has about 45 million users, according to the complaint.

Indeed, TWC executives state that they track consumers' movements "throughout the day, week and year" with "uber-precise" geolocation monitoring-collecting data that is "accurate down to 5 decimal places". TWC's app was targeted, he said, because it touches all demographics and seems benign and innocuous, because the company claims to have the largest trove of geolocation data and because the company did little to change its practices in the wake of the New York Times expose.

In June, California lawmakers approved what experts are calling the country's most far-reaching law to give people more control over their personal data online. The data was sold to at least 12 third party websites over the past 19 months.

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