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Cloudy Skies Hovering Over the Weather Channel in New Lawsuit

Cloudy Skies Hovering Over the Weather Channel in New Lawsuit

By Taylor Durham

  • Byron Allen’s Weather Channel is being sued for deceptive data mining practices

  • The Weather Channel app has over 100 million users

The ongoing debate about digital privacy has blown the doors wide open at Byron Allen’s Weather Channel, less than a year after he purchased it for $300 million. Just last week the city of Los Angeles filed suit against the Weather Company for deceptive data mining practices. It’s an industry that rakes in millions of dollars a year, but the Weather Channel may get washed out of any profits.

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Why This Matters: The Weather Channel app has over 100 million users, 45 million of those who use it monthly. In order to get localized weather reporting, the suit claims users were prompted to turn on their location settings, but the data was collected for undisclosed commercial purposes. Primarily the data was used to deliver specific advertisements to its users based on their geographic location. IBM (IBM +1.11%) and The Weather Channel have updated their privacy policy to reflect the changes.

As for the lawsuit, it requests that The Weather Channel is charged under California’s Unfair Competition Law and up to $2,500 for both civil penalties and for personal damages. If you consider the number of California residents who may use the Weather Channel app, these penalties could add up to millions of dollars.

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Still, is this enough of a punishment to force companies to curb their data mining habits? Take a company like Fitbit for example, it operates in an industry speculated to be worth $20 billion by 2023. The health devices are being used for patient care and manufacturers are expected to harvest the data to sell to insurance providers. That data is estimated to be worth around $855 million by 2023.

Situational Awareness: This isn’t the first time companies have been accused of ambiguous practices. The 2016 election showed first-hand how these companies handle our data and how vulnerable it can make us feel. The controversy surrounding Facebook’s (FB +2.45 %) Cambridge Analytica scandal prompted Congress to draw up the nation’s first privacy legislation.

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