Privacy Tip #172 – The Weather Company App Collects and Monetizes Users’ Geolocation Information
A lawsuit filed late last week by Los Angeles City Attorney Michael Feuer alleges that TWC Product and Technology LLC (TWC), the company behind The Weather Company App, is collecting, disclosing, selling and monetizing users’ information without their consent.
According to the lawsuit, the weather app tracks real time geolocation data on 45 million users and sells that data to third parties for commercial use, advertising and profit.
The lawsuit alleges that the app tracks with “startling precision” the location information on where users live, work and move every second of the day, even when they are not using the app.
Although the app maintains that it obtains users’ consent for geolocation tracking, the Complaint alleges that TWC does not inform users that their geolocation information will be sold to third parties for advertising and other commercial purposes that are not related to providing services to the users. It states “Users therefore have no reason to believe that their geolocation information will be used for anything other than providing them with ‘personalized local weather data, alerts and forecasts, or other services directly relating to the app.”
According to the City Attorney, “This case goes to the core of one of today’s most fundamental issues: How do we maintain our privacy in the digital age? We believe Americans must have the facts before giving away our most personal information.”
This is another example of an app that is potentially gathering very specific information on consumers and monetizing it allegedly without consent. Before downloading apps, consumers may wish to evaluate the utility of the app that they are downloading, and research into how the app is collecting, disclosing, selling and using very personal information like tracking our location on a minute by minute basis.