Office of City Attorney, LA has filed a lawsuit against an IBM subsidiary, alleging that the firm accessed personal location data of individuals using the weather app and then sold the data to marketing and advertising firms.
When users access the app, it sought permission about their location on pretext of sending them personalized alerts and weather details based on their location. The app then follows the users, giving access to an independent app which collects leads for Watson advertising of IBM. These details are subsequently sold to advertising companies, hedge funds and corporate giants such as Subway, McDonalds and more.
The lawsuit alleges that the purpose for which the data is collected and is ultimately used does not match and therefore, it amounts to fraudulent business practice. The lawsuit wants to put a tab on the company preventing it from such fraudulent practices and want to penalize them with a fine of up to $2500 for every fraudulent act in California.
Currently, Weather Channel is being used by 45mn users every month and the firm’s app sets have been downloaded for over 200mn times.
IBM’s spokesperson Saswato Das maintained that the company is transparent about how it uses the location details of its users and that all the appropriate disclosures are made. IBM plans to defend the case, he further added.
The lawsuit states they decided to take action against weather channel app is because the app affects everyone, irrespective of their ideology or geographic location. While the app looks innocuous, it has malafide intentions about how the collected data will be used.
IBM said that no longer sell data to hedge funds, however, Feurer noted no change in the way disclosures were made for data use.
While there is a mention of how the location data will be monetized in the privacy agreement, however remains hidden is settings menu of the smartphone.