IBM Corp. issued a statement Friday in response to a lawsuit by the Los Angeles city attorney claiming app users are misled to think the data is only used for personalized weather information but it is actually sold to third parties. "We chose this defendant because this app touches all demographics", Mike Feuer, LA city attorney, said at a press conference on Friday.
Civil penalties and an injunction are needed "to punish TWC [The Weather Company] for its egregious conduct and to deter TWC from engaging in the same or similar conduct in the future", the lawsuit said.
The Weather Channel's mobile app-which has 45 million monthly users-does this the moment you open it for the first time.
Feure said he hopes the recent lawsuit against the Weather Channel app will help curb any other apps from obtaining data from its users and turning it around for profit. You'll be greeted with a pop-up asking you to turn location tracking on.
"The app misleadingly suggests that such data will be used only to provide users with 'personalized local weather data, alerts and forecasts, '" the complaint said.
"On information and belief, TWC intentionally obscures this information because it recognizes that many users would not permit the Weather Channel App to track their geolocation if they knew the true uses of that data". Citing an October 18, 2016 post by Michelle Manafy on another blog, digitalcontentnext.org, the complaint states: "As the general manager of TWC's Consumer Division admitted, '(i) f a consumer is using your product and says, 'Hey, wait a minute, why do they want to know where I am?' ... you are going to have some problems".
"When seeking users' permission to track geolocation data, the app does not disclose to users that TWC will transmit that data to third parties, nor that the data will be used for advertising and other commercial purposes bearing no relation to weather or the services provided by the app", the complaint says.
The owner of The Weather Channel denies any impropriety with use of location data collected from users of its mobile app. Indeed, it has been reported that TWC considers itself "a location data company powered by weather'".
The app collects location data on where users live and work, as well as the places they visit throughout the day and night, according to the suit.
The government alleges in the lawsuit that the company used the data in order to gain hedge fund data and analysis and for targeted marketing. Anxieties over myriad state-level laws like the CCPA has recently led some organizations, including the Association of National Advertisers, to push for a comprehensive federal law that could lessen compliance burdens and legal complexities around data collection.