Weather Company Seeks Dismissal Of Location Privacy Lawsuit

The Weather Company is asking a California judge to throw out claims that its app dupes people by collecting their geolocation data for ad-targeting purposes.

The lawsuit, brought in Superior Court last year by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, alleges that from 2015 through 2019 the Weather Company misled app downloaders into thinking their location data would only be used to provide them with personalized weather-related information. Instead, according to the complaint, the company sells that data for ad-targeting purposes.

The IBM-owned Weather Company counters in papers filed last week that California law at the time the suit was filed only required companies to disclose its information-sharing practices in an online privacy policy, as opposed to disclosures made within an app.

The company argues in a motion for summary judgment that the lawsuit reflects an attempt by Feuer “to supplant the legislature’s specific determinations regarding the appropriate location and content of data privacy disclosures.”



The Weather Company specifically says the app allowed users to decide whether to share their location data, and that the company's online privacy policy disclosed that location data may be shared with third parties, and that users may receive ads relevant to their geographic locations.

The company adds that beginning in May of 2018, it disclosed location-sharing in the in-app privacy settings screen.

Several weeks after the lawsuit was filed, the Weather Company revised the iOS location-permission prompt to include information about geo-targeted ads, according to its court papers. In April of 2019, a new version of the app for iOS and Android added a screen that specifically told users that location data could be used for advertising.

Feuer's office brought the company several weeks after The New York Timesreported on widespread geolocation tracking by numerous apps.

“On information and belief, [the Weather Company] intentionally obscures this information because it recognizes that many users would not permit the Weather Channel App to track their geolocation if they knew the true uses of that data,” the complaint alleged.

The Weather Company counters in court papers that its privacy disclosures complied with the California Online Privacy Protection Act -- a 2004 law in effect when Feuer filed suit -- that requires commercial website operators that collect personally identifiable information to conspicuously links to privacy policies.

The new California Consumer Privacy Act, which went into effect this January, has more stringent requirements governing the kinds of notifications that companies must give consumers about data collection. But the Weather Company argues that even that new law requires the Attorney General to notify companies about potential noncompliance, and give them at least 30 days to cure any violations.

“CCPA’s notice-and-cure and guidance requirements stand in stark contrast to the City Attorney’s approach here, where he first informed defendants of his concerns regarding their disclosures by filing the complaint and staging a press conference,” the company writes.

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