FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2017, file photo, customers look at iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus phones at an Apple Store in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Weather Channel app accused of selling users’ data

Lawyers argue operator misled users who shared their location in exchange for personalized forecasts

  • Jan. 4, 2019 5:30 p.m.

People relied on the most popular mobile weather app to make plans and figure out how to dress for the elements, but its owners used it to track their every step and profit off that information, Los Angeles prosecutors said Friday.

The operator of The Weather Channel mobile app misled users who agreed to share their location information in exchange for personalized forecasts and alerts, and they instead unwittingly surrendered personal privacy when the company sold their data to third parties, City Attorney Michael Feuer said.

READ MORE: Facebook reveals bug gave apps unauthorized access to 6.8 million users’ photos

Feuer sued the app’s operator in Los Angeles County Superior Court to stop the practice. He said 80 per cent of users agreed to it because the company had intentionally obscured disclosures on how it uses geolocation data within a 10,000-word privacy policy.

“Think how Orwellian it feels to live in a world where a private company is tracking potentially every place you go, every minute of every day,” Feuer said. “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.”

A spokesman for IBM Corp., which owns the app, said it has always been clear about the use of location data collected from users and will vigorously defend its “fully appropriate” disclosures.

Marketed as the “world’s most downloaded weather app,” The Weather Channel app claims it has approximately 45 million users a month, the lawsuit said.

Feuer said operators of the app, 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 behaviour. Feuer said he learned about the sale of the private data from an article in The New York Times.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the company from the practice it calls “unfair and fraudulent” and seeks penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation.

It comes as companies, most notably Facebook and Google, are increasingly under fire for how they use people’s personal data. Both companies faced congressional hearings last year on privacy issues, which are likely to remain on lawmakers and regulators’ minds both nationally and in California.

In June, California lawmakers approved what experts are calling the country’s most far-reaching law to give people more control over their personal data online. That law doesn’t take effect until next year.

Feuer said he hopes the case inspires other lawsuits and legislation to curb data-sharing practices.

IBM bought the app along with the digital assets of The Weather Company in 2015 for $2 billion but did not acquire The Weather Channel seen on TV, which is owned by another company.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City to request conservation officer

Predatory wildlife appear to be bolder

City auditors reports are in

“We are now playing catch-up on all major assets,” CFO said

Salmon closures announced for Skeena and Nass watersheds

DFO notice expands on May 21 chinook ban throughout Skeena watershed

Local MP Taylor Bachrach salutes 10 days sick leave

In exchange NDP will support virtual parliament

UPDATED- More wolf sightings – numerous encounters

Avoid attracting wolves with food sources and keep pets inside

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

DFO allowing at-sea observers again if safe work procedures in place

May 15 fishery notice lays out conditions for allowing at-sea observers onboard amid COVID-19

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

Most Read