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Los Angeles Sues the Weather Channel App

By George Khoury, Esq. on January 10, 2019 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer has filed a lawsuit against The Weather Channel app due to the company's bait-and-switch geolocation policy and is hoping to send a message to other developers out there that plan to profit off mining their users' data.

That message: Be honest and upfront with app users about data-privacy. This case alleges unfair business practices under California law for misleading consumers when it came to the app's user data-privacy policy. When starting up, the app creates a popup advising users to share their location and that it will be used for specific things, none of which include sharing with third parties, or being used for advertising, or being monitored constantly.

Seeking Relief and a Better User Experience

The action seeks both injunctive relief and a civil penalty of $2,500 for each violation in the state of California. IBM, which owns The Weather Channel app, has stated that it will "vigorously defend" against the case and that their policies are basically just fine the way they are.

Although Terms of Services and End User License Agreements are often easily enforceable, this case seems to hinge upon the fact that when a user is prompted to allow location tracking, they're only told of the pros of localized weather readings, alerts, and forecasts, and not about the cons, such as the privacy intrusion of being tracked for marketing and data mining purposes.

As Attorney Feuer explained, the City Attorney's office decided to pursue the matter against The Weather Channel app because it "touches all demographics." This practice of using users as data-mines is becoming increasingly common among tech companies, and this case might just inspire some of those companies to be a little bit more upfront with their users about how user data gets used.

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