The Weather Channel app is the top app in the App Store's weather category and counts more than 100 million user downloads.
The Weather Channel app used personal location information from millions of users for commercial purposes, according to a lawsuit filed by a city attorney of Los Angeles.
The company misled users of the popular app to think their location data would only be used for personalized forecasts and alerts but instead covertly mined the information for corporate profit, City Attorney Michael Feuer said. When installed, the Weather Channel app requests access to your location data to give you local weather reports, but does not mention that the data will be used for advertising or could be sold to a third party.
The app maker "intentionally obscures this information because it recognizes that many users would not permit the Weather Channel App to track their geolocation if they knew the true uses of that data", the complaint said.
"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.
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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. "The disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously".
The lawsuit seeks the statutory penalty under California's Unfair Competition Law, up to $2,500 per violation, or twice that when the victim is disabled or a senior citizen. In a tweet, he said he was taking "action against one of America's largest corporations for what we allege is egregious behavior".
Mobile apps and high-tech companies like Google and Facebook have also faced scrutiny in the a year ago for similar reasons - tracking personal data of its users, according to the report. "This app seems to be benign; how many of you would suspect that to get a weather app, we would be tracked 24/7?"
TWC, according to the complaint, has been able to convince about 80 per cent of users to grant access to geolocation data.
Indeed, TWC executives state that they track consumers' movements "throughout the day, week and year" with "uber-precise" geolocation monitoring-collecting data that is "accurate down to 5 decimal places". The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has a lot to say about companies that take people's personal data for one goal but use it for another, and fines stretch as high as 4% of global revenue.