Weather Channel App Suspected of Misleading Users over Use of Location Data

“The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data; the disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously.”

That was IBM’s response to a lawsuit lodged against said company by the city of Los Angeles, accusing it of collecting, sharing, and profiting from the location data of millions of users without their consent via its app.

The Weather Company is a weather forecasting and information technology company owned by IBM. It is also the developer behind The Weather Channel app, one of the most popular online weather services in the US with over 100 million downloads and 45 million monthly active users.

The city attorney of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit filed on Thursday, which claims that the company has set up its app as “an intrusive tool to mine users’ private geolocation data, which [The Weather Channel] then sends to IBM affiliates and other third parties for advertising and other commercial purposes entirely unrelated to either weather or The Weather Channel App’s services.”

The city is claiming that the company has misled its users by failing to clarify the purposes of collecting their data, which it limited to being able to deliver localized weather reports. Such incomplete messages, according to the lawsuit, constitute fraudulent and deceptive practices, which violate California’s Unfair Competition Law.

Under this law, the suit is seeking penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation. This means that the total price that The Weather Channel could end up paying if the city wins will amount to millions of dollars.