The Weather Channel, an app drawer staple for many of us, may be using your location data without your consent. The city of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing Weather Channel owner The Weather Company, as well as IBM, its parent company, of using location data acquired through the app for targeted ad sales and marketing without permission. When installed, the Weather Channel app requests access to your location data to give you local weather reports, but does not mention that the data will be used for advertising or could be sold to a third party.
According to The New York Times, whose report lays out the full details of the suit, the state of California considers incomplete permissions requests like this to be a “deceptive” business practice. (It’s right). We often give apps permission to access all kinds of data in our phones without a second thought, but between leaks and deceptive business practices, it’s definitely better to avoid giving away information whenever possible, especially location data.
In light of the accusations and the gross Big Brother vibes The Weather Channel now exudes, I’d recommend deleting the app altogether. If you’d prefer to hold onto it while you pick a new weather app for iOS or Android, you can still use The Weather Channel app without giving it permission to use your location data. To revoke the app’s access to your location data on iOS, go to the “Privacy” menu in System Preferences, then “Location Services.” From there, scroll down to “The Weather Channel” and switch permission to “never.” Android is basically the same: Go to the “Settings” menu, then “Location,” and switch The Weather Channel to the off position.
The bottom line: It’s impossible to be “paranoid” about digital security. Every time you think you understand what line companies can and cannot cross, word gets out that companies have been crossing it the whole time under our noses.
About the author
Mike Epstein is a freelance writer covering tech, games, and culture at Lifehacker and Gizmodo, among others.