On March 17, 2021, a California federal judge partly denied the Weather Channel’s motion to dismiss a proposed class action over the company’s location data practices, which the plaintiff claims violated his privacy rights and various California laws. The court allowed the plaintiff’s constitutional, unjust enrichment, and declaratory judgment claims to proceed, but dismissed plaintiff’s unfair competition claim without prejudice for lack of statutory standing and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act claim because plaintiff agreed to its dismissal. As a result, the Weather Channel will have to continue to defend against allegations that its collection and sale of location data was improper.
The lawsuit, Hart v. TWC Product and Technology LLC, centers on whether the Weather Channel’s mobile app sufficiently disclosed its collection and use of location data. The plaintiff claims that the app failed to disclose the extent of its tracking and the fact that it sold location data. According to the complaint, users were prompted to let the Weather Channel App access their “location,” but were not informed in the prompt that the app would track precise geolocation data even when the app was closed or that the Weather Channel would sell the data to third parties for advertising and marketing purposes. The plaintiff claims that he did not consent to the extensive collection or sale of his location data and that these practices infringe his privacy.
Second, consumers’ expectations of privacy are not necessarily binary. Like the judge here, other courts have held that the expectation of privacy consists of degrees and nuances. For that reason, permission to use data in one way (e.g., collecting location to serve personalized weather forecasts and alerts) may not constitute permission to use the data in other ways (e.g., alleged 24/7 monitoring of location data that is sold to third parties). Additionally, the opinion suggests that the scale of data collection is an important factor in consumers’ reasonable expectations of privacy.