The suit accuses TWC Product and Technology, the company behind the app, of using the popular app to covertly mine the private data of its users and sell the information to third parties, including advertisers.
The app coaxes users to turn on location tracking so they can receive personalized local weather information, alerts and forecasts. But unbeknownst to them, TWC has been amassing this data and selling it to third parties for commercial purposes, like targeted advertising and analysis for hedge funds, according to the suit.
“If the cost of a weather forecast will be the sacrifice of deeply private information–like precisely where we are, day and night — it must be clear, in advance” City Attorney Michael Feuer said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “But we allege TWC elevates corporate profits over users’ privacy, misleading them into allowing their movements to be tracked, 24/7. We’re acting to stop this alleged deceit.”
The complaint alleges that TWC used location tracking technology in the app to monitor where users live, work, and visit. This information is allegedly used by at least a dozen third party websites to target ads over the last year and a half, based on the places users frequent. It’s also been sold to hedge funds interested in consumer behavior.
The app’s trove of location data, gathered from some 45 million monthly users, is one reason why IBM purchased the Weather Company’s product and technology division in 2016, the suit claims.
The complaint, filed Thursday in California Superior Court, accuses The Weather Company of violating the state’s unfair competition law for failing to be up front about how it uses consumers’ location data, and misleading users into believing this information would be used exclusively for obtaining local weather forecasts.
The Weather Channel’s television network is a separate entity, owned by Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios.