Weather Channel App Sparks Lawsuit Over Alleged Private Location Data Misuse

Summer Television Critics Press Tour for The Weather Channel - logo- Getty-H 2018
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The extremely popular Weather Channel app has been collecting private geolocation data and selling it for profit, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the L.A. City Attorney's Office. 

"For years, TWC 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 the while leading users to believe that their data will only be used to provide them with 'personalized local weather data, alerts and forecasts,'" states the complaint. "TWC has then profited from that data, using it and monetizing it for purposes entirely unrelated to weather or the Weather Channel App."

The complaint claims TWC takes advantage of the app's widespread popularity to mine data from its 45 million users and share it with at least a dozen third parties. That information includes users' "second-by-second movements" that are tracked even when the app isn't being actively used. Where users go and how much time they spend in each location offers third parties valuable insight into their identities, daily habits and consumer preferences, according to the complaint. 

Further, the complaint alleges TWC tricks users into authorizing the geolocation tracking by suggesting it will only be used in connection with local weather information and not mentioning that its transmitted to third parties. Instead, the lawsuit claims the information is hidden in the Privacy Policy and Privacy Settings sections of the app, which "the vast majority of users" don't read.

The company responded on Friday in a statement, saying, "The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data; the disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously."

The City Attorney's office is seeking civil penalties of $2,500 per violation of unfair competition laws and an injunction to stop TWC's alleged unfair business practices.