City Atty. alleges “Orwellian” practices from weather application

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Is the Weather Channel stealing data from Angelenos and selling it to advertisers? That’s exactly what Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer alleged Friday, when he announced a lawsuit against TWC Product and Technology, LLC (TWC), the operator of the Weather Channel smart phone app.

According to Feuer’s office, TWC has used geolocation tracking technology present in the app to monitor where users live, work and visit, 24-hours a day, as well as how much time users spend at each location. The information is then sent to parent company IBM and its affiliates for use in targeted advertising.

“This case goes to the core of one of today’s most fundamental issues,” Feuer said. “How do we maintain our privacy in the digital age? We believe Americans must have the facts before giving away our most personal information.”

Feuer’s office also alleged that TWC intentionally buries information about its data use within a monolithic 10,000-word Privacy Policy, leading to approximately 80 percent of users to grant access to geolocation data. TWC allegedly collects more than one billion pieces of location data per week based on user locations.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction prohibiting TWC from continuing to engage in allegedly unfair and fraudulent business activities, including deceptively collecting and selling personal data, as well as civil penalties up to $2,500 for each violation.

Feuer said the company stopped sharing information with hedge funds following the story last month by The New York Times that highlighted the practice. Nevertheless, IBM spokesman Saswato Das told The Times the Weather Company “has always been transparent with use of location data” and that the company will defend its disclosures “vigorously.”

The Weather Channel app was the most downloaded weather application from 2014 to 2017.

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