Weather Channel & Weather app are selling user’s location data

A lawsuit against the app developers was filed in a Los Angeles court by allegedly extracting the location data from the users

Cybersecurity specialists from the International Institute of Cyber Security Report that Mike Feuer, Los Angeles Attorney general, has filed a lawsuit against the Weather Channel app, accusing developers of deceiving users to provide location data that this company sold to third-parties for marketing and other commercial purposes.

In the lawsuit filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court, the prosecutor states that this application, owned by the IBM Weather Company, does not inform users clearly of how their data is shared by the application at the time of collecting their location data.

“When requesting users’ permission to track their location data, the app omits to mention that TWC shares that information with third parties. The company also does not inform that these data will be used for advertising purposes and other commercial purposes not related to the services provided by the app”, is mentioned in the lawsuit. “Instead, the app intentionally misleading suggests that this information will be used for users to receive personalized weather information, such as forecasts and alerts”.

According to cybersecurity experts, the app would have compiled location-to-detail data on its users for years, and Weather Company would have analyzed/transferred this information to third parties for targeted advertising campaigns.

The lawsuit claims that IBM purchased the Weather Company for the purpose of benefiting itself from this collected information. In addition, the company intentionally hides the fact that it shares location data in its privacy policy, assuming that many users are oppose to this use of their personal information.

“The Los Angeles government alleges that TWC puts corporate profits above the privacy of its users, deceiving them to grant this kind of permissions to the app. The prosecution will work to stop this alleged hoax”, the prosecutor said.

This lawsuit was filed after cybersecurity specialists pointed to the way in which apps pose their privacy policies to users. In this case, the lawsuit claims that TWC has managed to convince about 80% of the users to grant such permissions. According to the estimates made by specialists, the company collects over one billion location data each week.

On the other hand, IBM defends the practices of TWC. “Weather Company has always been transparent with the use of user data; we believe that this practice is totally appropriate and we defend it vigorously,” mentions the company’s statement.

At a press conference broadcast via Twitter, Feuer expressed skepticism about IBM’s defense of its subsidiary. “If the company were really transparent, the first thing would be to inform the user that their data will be used for purposes beyond providing the weather forecast”.

Feuer seeks that a fine be applied in accordance with the provisions of the California Unfair Competition Law. This document establishes a penalty of up to $2500 USD for each incident, including double payment if the victim is disabled or an older adult; the prosecutor mentions that it is still premature to think of a figure.