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Lawsuit: Popular Weather App Deceived Users

Los Angeles sues Weather Channel, says location data was sold without proper consent
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2019 12:53 PM CST
This screenshot shows the Weather Channel's app for mobile phones.   (AP Photo/Weather Channel)

(Newser) – Used the Weather Channel app? You might've been deceived into sharing your location data with company partners, according to a lawsuit from Los Angeles' city attorney. The IBM-owned app—one of the country's most popular sources of weather data, with more than 100 million downloads and 45 million active monthly users—allegedly told Americans that activating location tracking would allow for local weather reports without mentioning the data would also be sold to third parties "for unrelated commercial purposes, like targeted marketing and analysis for hedge funds," the New York Times reports. "If the price of getting a weather report is going to be the sacrifice of your most personal information about where you spend your time day and night, you sure as heck ought to be told clearly in advance," as LA city attorney Michael Feuer puts it.

"The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data; the disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously," responds an IBM rep. Still, the suit alleges years of "egregious conduct" stemming from a "fraudulent and deceptive" pop-up message shown to American users, per Courthouse News. It only mentioned use of the data for "personalized local weather data, alerts and forecasts," per the suit. In contrast, European users got a message describing the sharing of location data "with partners," as well as its use for "geographically relevant ads and content," per the Times. Alleging the company concealed other tracking information in its privacy policy, the suit seeks up to $2,500 for each violation of California's Unfair Competition Law, which could translate into a fine of at least $2.5 billion. (Google is in a similar boat.)

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