Economy

Los Angeles sues the Weather Channel app for misleading users

Los Angeles sues the Weather Channel app for misleading users”

The Weather Channel's app secretly sucks up users' personal data and uses it for things like targeted marketing and hedge fund analysis, the Los Angeles city attorney has claimed in a lawsuit against The Weather Company, the IBM-owned firm that runs the app.

Feuere said TWC Product and Technology sold user data to several websites and other companies that track user data and behavioral patterns. When installed, the Weather Channel app requests access to your location data to give you local weather reports, but does not mention that the data will be used for advertising or could be sold to a third party.

The lawsuit pulls IBM into the broader conversation about how tech companies use consumer data that has roiled the industry in the past two years and prompted intense questions from politicians, users and regulators. And it says that TWC intentionally hides the fact that it shares location data in its lengthy privacy policy because the company recognizes many users would object to such data sharing if they knew of it.

'TWC has then profited from that data, using it and monetizing it for purposes entirely unrelated to weather or the Weather Channel app.

TWC, according to the complaint, has been able to convince about 80 per cent of users to grant access to geolocation data.

More than 1,000 apps contain location-sharing code created by companies who share it with advertisers. Google evidently didn't even do that: In 2017, the search biz was accused of collecting data on Android phones regardless of whether users allowed such collection. 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.

IBM defended TWC's disclosure practices.

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.

Civil penalties and an injunction are needed "to punish TWC [The Weather Company] for its egregious conduct and to deter TWC from engaging in the same or similar conduct in the future", the lawsuit said.

The prosecutors have also argued that a large number of the app's users allowed it to track their location as it failed to disclose its data practices clearly.

"This case goes to the core of one of today's most fundamental issues, how do we maintain our privacy in the digital age?" The app is one of the most popular weather apps in the U.S.



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