Published: Sat, January 05, 2019
Money | By Ralph Mccoy

Weather Channel App Accused Of Selling Users' Personal Data

Weather Channel App Accused Of Selling Users' Personal Data

IBM's Weather Company, which operates the app, says it has been downloaded over 100 million times and has 45 million active monthly users. 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.

The city attorneys of Los Angeles on Thursday sued the developer of the Weather Channel app for allegedly collecting, sharing and profiting from user location data without users' permission.

The suit alleges that IBM subsidiary The Weather Company, the outfit behind the app, used the program to "amass its users' private, personal geolocation data" while making users believe their data was used only to provide accurate local weather forecasts. "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". Prosecutors claim app users have been misled to think the data is only used for personalized weather information but it is actually sold to third parties.

Notably, data privacy is increasingly becoming a cause of concern for the lawmakers with major tech companies including Facebook and Google being subjected to intensive questioning by not only by the lawmakers in the USA and the European Union but also governments across the globe.

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

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In one case, users" location data was used "to target McDonald's McCafé coffee offerings toward millennials who-according to that geolocation data-frequented "breakfast-style diners, '" the complaint said.

IBM responded to the Times saying: "The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data; the disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously".

Feuer said the app's operators, TWC Product and Technology LLC, sold data to at least a dozen websites for targeted ads and to hedge funds that used the information to analyze consumer behavior. The company is said to collect more than a billion pieces of location data per week. The complaint also says the Weather Channel profited from the data, "using it and monetizing it for purposes entirely unrelated to weather or the Weather Channel App".

"The issue of our privacy in the digital age is one of the most fundamental issues we confront today", he said.

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