The Hustle

The Weather Channel is stuck in a location data lawsuit, and the forecast looks bad

The LA city attorney is suing the Weather Channel app for misleading users and selling their data.

January 7, 2019

These days, it seems no one is safe from a data scandal: The Weather Channel app, owned by IBM, is being sued for misleading users and selling their location data to advertisers and investors.

If the Weather Channel app loses, it could pay out millions to its 45m monthly active users.

Cloudy with a chance of lawsuit

The lawsuit, filed by the LA city attorney, accuses the Weather Company of leading customers to believe their location data would be used only for local forecasting.

But IBM allegedly sold the personal data to advertisers (to help them geo-target potential customers) and hedge funds (to help them evaluate foot traffic).

Since gathering and selling data without disclosure violates California law, LA now seeks $2.5k for each individual violation — a sum that could add up to millions.

In today’s economy, the Weather predicts you

IBM’s data deviousness isn’t a total surprise: When IBM added the Weather Channel to its Cloud Computing Unit, we predicted it would sell its data to existing clients. But no one expected IBM to do such a bad job notifying users.

The lawsuit is only getting started. For now, the Weather Channel insists its “disclosures are fully appropriate, and [it] will defend them vigorously.”

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