Popular weather app accused of tracking user’s location and selling it to ad firms – even when they opted out

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Popular weather app AccuWeather has been accused of collecting user’s location data even when the option had been turned off and then selling the data to third party advertisers.

The claims, which AccuWeather has denied, comes from security researcher Will Strafach who revealed the alleged shady practice of the app tracking the locations iPhone users.

Tech site ZDNet later reported that it had been able to verify Strafach’s claims that AccuWeather collects and shares the location data of its users who had not given the app permission to do so.

Strafach said he discovered the practice after being able to intercept data being sent from the AccuWeather app to a third party server.

He said that he found the information that was being transmitted included the name of the Wi-Fi router the iPhone was connected to and the unique MAC address of the router.

Strafach said the data was being sent to a software company called Reveal Mobile, which on its website says it can help companies “turn location data into meaningful mobile revenue.”

Image: Will Strafach

When a user enables location sharing, they give permission for the AccuWeather app to share a wealth of information with Reveal Mobile.

Most users are probably not aware but this includes really detailed info such as altitude, latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates, which can pinpoint your exact location, and even the speed in which you are travelling.

In a statement to ZDNet, Reveal Mobile defended the practice by saying its data is anonymized and is therefore difficult to identify an individual user.

In its privacy policy, AccuWeather says it may track a user’s location but doesn’t make any mention of passing that onto advertising companies.

In a statement released to 9to5Mac, AccuWeather denied the claims saying:

“Despite stories to the contrary from sources not connected to the actual information, if a user opts out of location tracking on AccuWeather, no GPS coordinates are collected or passed without further opt-in permission from the user.

“Other data, such as Wi-Fi network information that is not user information, was for a short period available on the Reveal SDK, but was unused by AccuWeather. In fact, AccuWeather was unaware the data was available to it. Accordingly, at no point was the data used by AccuWeather for any purpose.”

As Apple does not reveal figures on how many times an app has been downloaded, AccuWeather is arguably one of the most popular weather apps available on iOS.

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