LA sues Weather Channel, alleging it sold app users’ data

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The lawsuit cites some statistics, claiming the Weather Channel app is used by 45 million users a month, with 80 percent of users allowing the app access to geolocation information.

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. "We chose this defendant because this app touches all demographics", Mike Feuer, LA city attorney, said at a press conference on Friday. The Weather Channel seen on TV was not acquired by IBM and is owned by a different company.

Poor data privacy standards seem to be the norm for many tech companies nowadays, but it seems even older institutions - like The Weather Channel (TWC) - aren't immune to similar problems.

IBM says The Weather Company has always been transparent with its use of location data.

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.

"For years, [the Weather Channel] 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, '" Los Angeles City Attorney Michael Feuer writes in the lawsuit. "If the cost of a weather forecast will be the sacrifice of deeply private information - like precisely where we are, day and night - it must be clear, in advance".

Feuer said a disclosure about the company sharing location data with partners is buried in the fine print of a 10,000 word privacy section. "But we allege TWC elevates corporate profits over users' privacy, misleading them into allowing their movements to be tracked, 24/7".

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 U.S. and the European Union but also governments across the globe. The lawsuit says that the data was used to delivered targeted advertising and also to analyze consumer behaviour.

The complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks civil penalties and an injunction barring the Weather Channel "from engaging in these prohibited business practices", which allegedly violate California's Unfair Competition Law.

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