LA sues Weather Channel app owner over 'fraudulent' data use

Los Angeles sues the Weather Channel app for misleading users

"Unbeknownst to many users, the Weather Channel App has tracked users' detailed geolocation data for years, analyzing and/or transferring that data to third parties for a variety of commercial and advertising purposes, including for targeted advertisements based on locations users frequent, and for hedge funds interested in analyzing consumer behavior", the lawsuit said. The suit doesn't allege personally identifiable information was sold.

Feuer alleged the Weather Channel intentionally obscured its motives in a lengthy privacy policy that got four-fifths of users to agree to share geolocation data.

The Weather Channel app's business model relies on maximizing the amount of geolocation data it collects, and TWC executives have said that this data is one of the main reasons that IBM, according to the lawsuit.

IBM defended TWC's disclosure practices.

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IBM's Weather Company, which operates the app, says it has been downloaded over 100 million times and has 45 million active monthly users. Artificial intelligence systems like Watson demand huge data sets to train their algorithms on.

But Feuer said TWC "elevates corporate profits over users' privacy" by sharing that data with third-party companies, including advertisers.

In a November speech at an event with top European Union officials, Rometty said "irresponsible handling" of user data by "dominant consumer-facing platform companies" has created a "trust crisis". Instead, according to the complaint, the app sells the data for ad-targeting purposes.

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.

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"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, '" the complaint reads.

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

Feuer told reporters Friday that the case represents a defense of Americans' privacy in a digital age where their location data is frequently stored and shared without prior knowledge.

Notably, data privacy is increasingly becoming a cause of concern for the lawmakers with major tech companies including Facebook and Google being subjected to intensive questioning by not only by the lawmakers in the United States and the European Union but also governments across the globe.

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