AccuWeather Under Investigation for Tracking Users' Locations
Schubert Jonckheer & Kolbe announced today that it has launched an investigation into the privacy practices of AccuWeather Inc. The company recently admitted to tracking and sharing users’ location data without their permission.
AccuWeather offers a free iPhone weather app on the Apple iTunes store. In return, AccuWeather displays advertisements to users. However, unbeknownst to millions of users, AccuWeather bypasses users’ privacy preferences by sharing location data with a third-party data monetization firm for further advertising purposes.
Security researcher Will Strafach recently released a report detailing AccuWeather’s data collection and sharing practices. Specifically, Strafach discovered that AccuWeather shares users’ precise GPS coordinates, including the names and unique identifiers of the WiFi routers that users are connected to, with Reveal Mobile, a data monetization firm. According to Strafach, Reveal Mobile then sells this data to retailers for targeted advertising purposes. Importantly, Strafach found that AccuWeather continues to collect and share location data on users who do not grant the app permission to use location services. In those cases, the AccuWeather app tracks the user’s general location based on WiFi information. This includes the WiFi router name and the router’s unique BSSID, which can be used to geolocate a user down to a few meters.
AccuWeather has admitted that information “such as Wi-Fi network information . . . was for a short period available [to] Reveal [Mobile].” While AccuWeather has temporarily disabled this transmission of location data, it expects to resume sharing practices with Reveal Mobile once certain compliance measures are implemented, such that “zero data is transmitted back to Reveal Mobile when someone opts out of location sharing.” However, AccuWeather’s updated privacy statements reveal inconsistencies in its approach, including a caveat that “the fact that [a user] turn[s] off location services may not mean that all location identifiable technologies are turned off.”
We are actively investigating whether AccuWeather may have violated numerous state and federal laws by collecting and sharing users’ location data without their consent. If you have used the AccuWeather iOS app and denied it permission to your location data, your privacy may have been violated, and you may be entitled to statutory damages and an injunction forcing AccuWeather to stop the practice.
If you have used AccuWeather's iOS app and denied it permission to your location, you may be owed statutory damages of up to $5,000 per violation. Please complete the form below for a free legal consultation.