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Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

App Settles Geo-Tracking Legal Battle

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced on Aug. 19 he had settled a lawsuit with TWC Product and Technology and its parent company IBM Corp. over tracking of users of the Weather Channel mobile phone app. The legal action, filed in January 2019, alleged that TWC and IBM used location tracking technology in the app to monitor round-the-clock where users lived, worked and visited and shared the information with third parties. Feuer claimed that this was done without adequately disclosing the practice to users when they decided whether to allow location tracking. Soon after Feuer filed the lawsuit, both TWC, in Atlanta, and IBM, in Armonk, N.Y., revised the disclosure screens and under the settlement the two companies agreed to further revisions to those disclosures, which will help ensure informed consent and transparency. “Defendants will make good-faith efforts to implement the revisions as soon as feasible, and in no event later than October 15, 2020,” the settlement said. Feuer called personal privacy one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. “Our successful work to ensure meaningful consumer notice and consent and to hold the Weather Channel App accountable puts other apps on notice: We’re monitoring their practices and will continue to be vigilant in fighting for consumers,” Feuer said in a statement. In the 15-page complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Feuer said that TWC violated the state’s unfair competition law by deceptively using its Weather Channel App to amass its users’ private, personal geolocation data — tracking minute details about its users’ locations throughout the day and night. “TWC has then profited from that data, using it and monetizing it for purposes entirely unrelated to weather or the Weather Channel App,” the lawsuit said. “In fact, unbeknownst to its users, TWC’s core business is amassing and profiting from user location data.” Feuer’s office added IBM as a defendant in the lawsuit six months after it was filed. According to the settlement, both companies denied any liability of any kind. “Defendants maintain that, at all relevant times, their disclosures to app users were transparent and fully complied with all applicable laws, including CalOPPA, the California Consumer Privacy Act, and, to the extent it could be argued to apply, the UCL,” the settlement said. While both defendant companies are located out of state, the lawsuit was filed here because TWC purposely went after a market in California. “The Weather Channel App is available for download and use throughout California and, on information and belief, many hundreds of thousands of Californians (if not more) have downloaded and used the Weather Channel App,” the lawsuit said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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