LA Sues Weather Channel App Over Stealthy Data Collection

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The complaint contends that "for years, TWC 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'".

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.

"We brought this lawsuit because we allege that the app covertly mines the private data of its users, and then it sends that information to third parties, like advertisers, and others, " Feuer said during a news conference at City Hall East to discuss the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday. According to TWC, it collects more than one billion pieces of location data per week, thus tracking users' personal data with "unmatched accuracy and precision".

The complaint alleges that the Weather Channel app has collected detailed location data on app users for years and that the Weather Company has analyzed and/or transferred the data to third parties for targeted advertising and to help hedge funds understand consumer behavior. "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", Michael Feuer, said according to a report by the Associated Press.

At least it asked.

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TWC's app doesn't just track anonymous data like your general area (such as your city or state) - it tracks your zip code, and your "minute", moment-to-moment movements whether you're using the app or not.

The 15-page complaint accuses TWC of violating California's Unfair Competition Law through "fraudulent and deceptive business acts and practices", primarily by failing to disclose the uses to which it put its customers' personal information.

An IBM spokesman told the Times that the Weather Company has "always been transparent with use of location data" and that the businesses will "vigorously" defend their disclosures.

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.

Feuer told reporters Friday that the case represents a defense of Americans' privacy in a digital age where their location data is frequently stored and shared without prior knowledge. The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has a lot to say about companies that take people's personal data for one goal but use it for another, and fines stretch as high as 4% of global revenue.