Delete The Weather Channel App If You're Concerned About Your Location Data

The Weather Channel app's icon on an iPhone screen

"We chose this defendant because this app touches all demographics", Mike Feuer, LA city attorney, said at a press conference on Friday.

The complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks civil penalties and an injunction barring the Weather Channel "from engaging in these prohibited business practices", which allegedly violate California's Unfair Competition Law. Feuer said it's premature to discuss how much a potential penalty might be.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday, concerns the mobile app's location-tracking feature, which you can turn on to receive localized weather reports.

Even if you don't mind your location data being handed off to third parties, it's tough to deny that the way TWC has gone about it so far is worth a bit of skepticism.

The app is said to have 45 million monthly users; it's not yet clear how many reside in California. However, in doing so, the users unknowingly also surrendered their privacy to the app. But even these "sections of the app are less than forthcoming regarding TWC's uses of geolocation data", with the advertising usage described vaguely and "scattered through various sections of the almost 10,000-word Privacy Policy", the complaint said.

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.

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"The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data", an IBM spokesperson told The New York Times. IBM said it would provide no other response to the lawsuit at this time. TWC's app was targeted, he said, because it touches all demographics and seems benign and innocuous, because the company claims to have the largest trove of geolocation data and because the company did little to change its practices in the wake of the New York Times expose.

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. But there's no mention of how the data will be shared with third-party groups.

The data serves no weather-related goal, but was only collected in order to allow TWC to turn a profit, the complaint reads.

TWC, according to the complaint, has been able to convince about 80 per cent of users to grant access to geolocation data.

Data usage went beyond advertising.

Feuere said TWC Product and Technology sold user data to several websites and other companies that track user data and behavioral patterns.

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