The Weather Channel is one of the the most watched channels on TV and and its app is widely used to gather weather information for cities all around the country. The app claims to have 45 million active monthly users, and the city attorney for Los Angeles filed a lawsuit this week alleging that the app had deceptively collected, shared, and profited from location information on millions of American consumers. According to the lawsuit, the Weather Company, the company behind the app, had unfairly manipulated users into turning on location tracking by suggesting that the location data would only be used to localize weather reports.
However, the company also used the data that it gathered for unrelated commercial purposes, such as targeted marketing and analysis for hedge funds. The lawsuit alleges that there is a massive industry of companies that profit from selling the location data of users collected from apps. The data is then used by advertisers, stores, and investors that want to gain insight into consumers according to the suit.
The lawsuit states apps that offer incomplete messages, such as The Weather Channel app, violate California's Unfair Competition Law because they are fraudulent and deceptive. “If the price of getting a weather report is going to be the sacrifice of your most personal information about where you spend your time day and night,” said Michael N. Feuer, the Los Angeles city attorney, “you sure as heck ought to be told clearly in advance.”
The company behind The Weather Channel app is owned by IBM, and an IBM spokesperson called Saswato Das said, "The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data; the disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously." The lawsuit comes as consumers are more and more concerned about how tech companies gather and use their personal and private data.