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

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

People relied on the most popular mobile weather app to track forecasts that determined whether they chose jeans over shorts and packed a parka or umbrella, but its owners used it to track their every step and profit off that information, Los Angeles prosecutors said Friday. "[The Weather Channel] has then profited from that data, using it and monetizing it for purposes entirely unrelated to weather".

Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that TWC intentionally masks this business practice by scattering information about its data-sharing practice among a long-winded 10,000-word Privacy Policy.

The complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, alleges that the mobile application, owned by IBM's Weather Company (TWC), in seeking user permission to gather location data, fails to explain clearly how it shares the information. Sign up today to get wireless news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the company from the practice it deems "unfair and fraudulent" and seeks penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation.

The lawsuit comes as companies, most notably Facebook and Google, are increasingly under fire for how they use people's personal data.

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"When seeking users' permission to track geolocation data, the app does not disclose to users that TWC 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 complaint says. IBM said it would provide no other response to the lawsuit at this time.

Feuer said the app's operators, TWC Product and Technology LLC, sold data to at least a dozen websites for targeted ads and to hedge funds that used the information to analyze consumer behavior.

In a press conference streamed via Twitter - under investigation by Ireland's Data Protection Commission over its collection of user location data - Feuer expressed skepticism about IBM's defense of its subsidiary.

About 80 percent of Weather Channel app users grant access to their geolocation data, and their movements are tracked "in minute detail", the complaint said. According to TWC, it collects more than one billion pieces of location data per week, thus tracking users' personal data with "unmatched accuracy and precision".

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.

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