The Weather Channel application accused of selling users' personal data

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A farmer uses a mobile app while working in a rice field on the outskirts of Yangon. New smartphone apps provide farmers with up-to-date information on everything from weather and climate change to crop prices, advice on pesticides and fertilizers. AFP file photo

LOS ANGELES – People relied on the most popular mobile weather app to track predictions allowing them to determine whether they were choosing jeans rather than shorts and were packing a parka or umbrella, but its owners are being used to following every step and taking advantage of this information, Los Angeles attorneys said. Friday.

The operator of the Weather Channel mobile application has induced users who had agreed to share their location information in exchange for personalized forecasts and alerts. Instead, they unwittingly gave up the confidentiality of their data when the company sold their data to third parties, said City Attorney Michael Feuer.

Feuer sued the enforcement operator in the Los Angeles County Superior Court to put an end to this practice. He said that 80% of users have agreed to allow access to their sites because information on how the application uses geolocation data has been buried in a privacy policy of 10 000 words and not revealed when downloading the application.

"Imagine how much Orwellian lives in a world where a private company potentially monitors all the places you go every minute of every day," said Feuer. "If you want to sacrifice this information to this business, you should do it with clear notice of the issues."

A spokesman for IBM Corp., owner of the application, said that he had always been clear about the use of location data collected from users and that it was easy to understand. he would vigorously defend his "perfectly appropriate" information.

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

The lawsuit seeks to end the company's "unjust and fraudulent" practice and seeks fines of up to $ 2,500 per offense. Any court decision would apply only to California.

Presented as "the most downloaded weather app in the world," the Weather Channel app claims about 45 million users a month, the lawsuit said.

Users who download the free application must indicate that they must allow access to their location to "obtain local weather data, alerts, and personalized forecasts." It is not clear how the company benefits from this information.

Although disclosures may be included in the privacy policy, current law states that "small print alone can not fix anything that has been made obscure," said Feuer.

He said he was informed of the sale of private data by a Grouvy Today article.

The lawsuit comes as companies, including Facebook and Google, are increasingly criticized for their use of personal data of people. Last year, the two companies were auditioned by Congress on privacy issues, which will likely remain at the forefront of legislators and regulators, both nationally and in California.

In June, California lawmakers approved what the experts call the country's most ambitious law to give people more control over their personal data online. This law will only come into effect next year.

Feuer said he hoped the case would inspire further lawsuits and laws aimed at limiting data sharing practices.

IBM purchased the application with The Weather Company's digital assets in 2015 for $ 2 billion, but did not acquire The Weather Channel, broadcast on television, which belongs to another company. / jpv

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