The city of Los Angeles is suing the Weather Channel, claiming it collects, shares, and sells users’ location data without their consent.
The news: The lawsuit, filed at the end of last week, contends that TWC, a subsidiary of IBM, has been tracking and storing users’ private geolocation data for years, while leading them to believe the data will be used only to personalize their forecasts. It’s claimed TWC then shares this data with its parent company and other (unspecified) third parties for advertising and other commercial purposes. “Unbeknownst to its users, TWC’s core business is amassing and profiting from user location data,” the plaintiff says in the filing. The company disputes the allegation and told CNN it has always been transparent in its use of location data.
Not alone: A report in the New York Times recently revealed just how many weather apps rely on selling location data to the highest bidder. WeatherBug and Accuweather also sell data to third parties. Just last week, another weather app—snappily named “Weather Forecast—World Weather Accurate Radar”—was found to be collecting not only location data, but also the IMEI identification numbers on mobile devices.
Some thoughts: We know our data is constantly being hoovered up, so many will greet this news with little surprise. But it’s notable that so many people are willing to grant companies constant access to their GPS data, as opposed to taking a few more seconds to enter their location manually. Not to defend companies’ dodgy data practices, but maybe it’s time to think harder about how much of our data we hand over in the first place, sometimes for only a little extra convenience.
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