L.A. Sues IBM's Weather Company over 'Deceptive' Weather Channel App

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TWC's app doesn't just track anonymous data like your general area (such as your city or state) - it tracks your zip code, and your "minute", moment-to-moment movements whether you're using the app or not.

Los Angeles prosecutors say they're suing operators of The Weather Channel mobile app to stop it from tracking the whereabouts of app users and selling the data to third parties.

In a new lawsuit filed this week (PDF), the city of Los Angeles alleges that the Weather Channel app has deceived its users into sharing their location with the IBM-owned company for weather data but instead has been amassing their personal location data for profit.

The Weather Channel's mobile app isn't the only product engaging in the shady data collection practices, Feuer said during a press conference on Friday.

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"When seeking users' permission to track geolocation data, the app does not disclose to users that [the Weather Channel] will transmit that data to third parties, nor that the data will be used for advertising and other commercial purposes bearing no relation to weather or the services provided by the app", the lawsuit reads. In a tweet, he said he was taking "action against one of America's largest corporations for what we allege is egregious behavior".

Hundreds of popular apps are collecting location data that they claim is anonymous, but further analysis shows it can be easily linked to specific users.

"If the price of getting the weather forecast is the sacrifice of your most personal info about where you spend your time, you need to be clearly told in advance", Feuer said.

Feuer and the city of LA are now seeking a court injunction that would prohibit TWC from continuing its practice of sharing user location data with partners, but also civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation.

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The lawsuit pulls IBM into the broader conversation about how tech companies use consumer data that has roiled the industry in the past two years and prompted intense questions from politicians, users and regulators.

A company representative says it's "always been transparent with use of location data" and will vigorously defend the "fully appropriate" disclosures.

In one case, users" location data was used "to target McDonald's McCafé coffee offerings toward millennials who-according to that geolocation data-frequented "breakfast-style diners, '" the complaint said. "This app seems to be benign; how many of you would suspect that to get a weather app, we would be tracked 24/7?"

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