Los Angeles sues the Weather Channel app for misleading users

Los Angeles sues the Weather Channel app for misleading users

Weather apps are one of the most common and frequently used applications on our smartphones.

A farmer uses a mobile app while working in a rice field on the outskirts of Yangon. The Weather Channel seen on TV was not acquired by IBM and is owned by a different company. 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 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.

"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.

The Weather Channel app used personal location information from millions of users for commercial purposes, according to a lawsuit filed by a city attorney of Los Angeles.

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. "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".

"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 while leading users to believe that their data will only be used to provide them with "personalized local weather data, alerts and forecasts, ' the lawsuit states". "This app seems to be benign; how many of you would suspect that to get a weather app, we would be tracked 24/7?"

TWC, according to the complaint, has been able to convince about 80 per cent of users to grant access to geolocation data.

Feuer is seeking $2,500 for each instance of a user being duped in this way, accusing the company of engaging in "unfair and fraudulent" practices.

The lawsuit follows a report last month in the New York Times that delved into the extent to which mobile apps gather location data without adequate disclosure and a year of scrutiny of Facebook over its sharing of user data with partners and developers.

The case "goes to the core of one of today's most fundamental issues ... privacy in the digital age", Feuer said in his statement.

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