Saturday, January 5, 2019

2019: The Year of Geolocation Privacy?

Engadget is reporting that the Los Angeles City Attorney has filed a complaint against the company behind The Weather Channel App (the "App") claiming its collection of geolocation information violated the state's unfair competition law. The claim alleges that the App does not provide consumers adequate disclosure as to how geolocation information is shared with third parties, including affiliates of IBM, the company's parent. Specifically, the complaint alleges that when seeking consent to collect a customer's geolocation information, the App only refers to providing personalized weather information and alerts and does not reference the App privacy policy.  Although the privacy policy does provide a more complete description of how the geolocation information is shared, the city attorney claims that customers have no reason to review it based upon the initial consent.

The lawsuit follows a recent New York Times article on how geolocation information on consumers is collected and used. In fact, the article is specifically referenced in the complaint, suggesting the article may have prompted the lawsuit. It also highlights growing privacy concerns associated with the collection and use of geolocation and other types of geospatial information. These concerns were manifested in a number of ways in 2018, such as including the regulation of location information in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), continued efforts by states in the U.S. to regulate the collection of data from drones, and the U.S. Supreme Court's Carpenter decision.  Organizations that are collecting and using geospatial information should prepare for greater scrutiny in 2019. 

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