peering through bushes spying

There have been many hacks of retailers’ computer systems, exposing millions of consumer records.

Facebook apparently collaborated with the Obama campaign to use consumers’ private details, and then a scandal erupted when a consulting company accessed the same or similar information during the 2016 election.

It’s no secret that cell phone companies can track its customers’ locations.

And then there’s the government, tracking and recording cell phone data and more.

Now there’s a lawsuit that accuses a weather information company of doing the same thing – even if consumers specifically opted out of the tracking function.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center explains it sued AccuWeather International “alleging that the company engaged in unlawful and deceptive practices in tracking consumers’ locations.”

The organization said AccuWeather tracks the locations of consumers who “expressly opted out of location tracking” on the company’s smart-phone software.

And then it sent their personal data to third-party companies for targeted advertising, EPIC said.

AccuWeather, as one of the world’s largest weather media companies, has a weather app for mobile devices that provides local weather updates.

Last fall, a security researcher found AccuWeather was tracking consumers’ locations even after the location services on the software was disabled.

“Specifically, AccuWeather was collecting and disclosing the unique identification number of the nearby WiFi router that an iPhone user was connected to. This Basic Service Set Identifier (BSSID) data can be used to track the location of a consumer based on widely available maps of WiFi devices,” EPIC said.

“The researcher also discovered that when AccuWeather was given permission to access personal location data on the iPhone, the company was also disclosing the consumer’s geographic coordinates, including latitude, longitude, altitude and speed, to a company called Reveal Mobile, Inc.”

That, basically, is a company that promotes ad opportunities.

“The researcher found that even when he denied AccuWeather permission to access his location, the company still disclosed his Wi-Fi BSSID to Reveal,” EPIC said.

AccuWeather not only didn’t tell consumers it was tracking their locations, it “also did not disclose to consumers that when they selected ‘Allow’ location access, the company was sending their personal location data to Reveal for targeted advertising.”

The company’s response at the time was that “if a user opts out of location tracking on AccuWeather, no GPS coordinates are collected or passed.”

That response, however, didn’t address the use of location tracking by using WiFi.

“As one reporter noted at the time, ‘claiming this is about GPS coordinates is like if they were caught stealing debit cards and they issued a denial that they never stole anyone’s cash,'” EPIC said.

And even thought AccuWeather took Reveal’s software from the current version of its app, the company continues to “collect, use, and disclose consumers’ personal location data to third parties for targeted advertising purposes,” EPIC said.

EPIC is asking the court to stop AccuWeather from tracking consumers’ location or transmitting their location to third parties without clearly and prominently disclosing it and obtaining consumers’ affirmative consent.


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