Lawsuit forces The Weather Channel app to disclose location use

TWC's new disclosure screens will state that the app could share location data with partners for ads.

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Mariella Moon
August 20th, 2020
In this article: The Weather Channel, app, lawsuit, LA, news, gear
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The company behind The Weather Channel application has agreed to revise its screens disclosing its location-tracking practices as part of its settlement with LA officials. Los Angeles' city attorney filed a lawsuit against the IBM subsidiary back in 2019, accusing it of failing to adequately disclose how their users’ location information would be used.

The app’s privacy policy states that TWC could share people’s data with partners and use it for targeted advertising. However, as officials pointed out back then, the location permission prompt that shows up after installing the app didn’t include any of that information. And users don’t typically take the time to acquaint themselves with every app’s privacy rules.

Part of the lawsuit read:

“For years, TWC has deceptively used its Weather Channel app to amass its users' private, personal geolocation data — tracking minute details about its users’ locations throughout the day and night, all while leading users to believe that their data will only be used to provide them with 'personalized local weather data, alerts and forecasts.”

TWC spokesperson Melissa Medori told ABC News in a statement that “the Weather Company has always been transparent about its use of location data.” She added that the company “fundamentally disagreed with this lawsuit from the start, and during the case [it] showed that the claims were baseless.”

As the city attorney’s announcement noted, TWC and IBM revised the app’s original disclosure screens soon after the lawsuit was filed. The settlement documents (PDF) contain more proposed changes to the prompts, though, and they’d clearly state that TWC may share user data with partners for ad purposes if the revisions are implemented. Here’s an excerpt:

Location and Your Weather

Did you know that if you allow access to your device’s location and barometric pressure sensor data, it enables us automatically to provide you with more accurate local forecasts? As our Privacy Policy describes, if you grant permission, we use your device’s location to deliver forecasts and weather alerts. We also may use and share this information with trusted partners for ads, and to provide and improve our Services. Regardless of whether or not you allow location access, you can always receive accurate local forecasts by manually entering a location. You can change permissions at any time.

How We Use and Share Location Information

...If you grant permission, we may use and share your device’s location to deliver you ads relevant to your location, and to provide and improve the Services. If you’ve also enabled personalized advertising, we may use and share your device’s location data with trusted partners to deliver ads that are relevant to you based on places you may have visited (for example, coffee shops). For more information on these trusted partners and the use and sharing of location data, you can review the section on sharing data in our Privacy Policy.

The new screens will also clarify that users can still use the app without giving it access to their location. They can simply enter a location by hand if they don’t mind not getting real—time information and access to other features dependent on one’s location. In addition to agreeing to revise its disclosure prompts, TWC has also agreed to notify LA’s city attorney of any future changes to its disclosure screens over the next two years.

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