Saturday, 19 January, 2019


City of LA sues Weather Channel over location data

Los Angeles sues the Weather Channel app for misleading users LA attorney sues The Weather Channel, says its mobile app improperly gathers user location data
Conrad Doyle | 05 January, 2019, 22:23

The city of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing Weather Channel owner The Weather Company, as well as IBM, its parent company, of using location data acquired through the app for targeted ad sales and marketing without permission.

The prosecutors in their petition have argued that the app, which is owned by IBM, unfairly manipulated the innocent app users into tracking their location in lieu of giving them personalised weather updates and alerts.

"When seeking users' permission to track geolocation data, the app does not disclose to users that [the Weather Channel] will transmit that data to third parties, nor that the data will be used for advertising and other commercial purposes bearing no relation to weather or the services provided by the app", the lawsuit reads.

Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that TWC intentionally masks this business practice by scattering information about its data-sharing practice among a long-winded 10,000-word Privacy Policy. IBM has actively worked to paint itself as having better data practices than consumer platforms like Google, Facebook Inc. and Twitter.

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. Artificial intelligence systems like Watson demand huge data sets to train their algorithms on.

"The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data", a company representative said in response to the lawsuit "The disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously".

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.

Feure said he hopes the recent lawsuit against the Weather Channel app will help curb any other apps from obtaining data from its users and turning it around for profit. Feuer said it's premature to discuss how much a potential penalty might be.

But in an emailed statement, IBM denied the lawsuit's claims.

About 80 percent of Weather Channel app users grant access to their geolocation data, and their movements are tracked "in minute detail", the complaint said.

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.

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.

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