AccuWeather Could Be Tracking Your iPhone Activity
AccuWeather is Selling GPS Data To Marketing Agencies.
AccuWeather may be tracking your iPhone activity, according to recent research.
A security researcher has dug deep into the AccuWeather weather application to find some shocking details about data being sent to and from those that have the app installed. According to the research, AccuWeather has been sending location information and potentially other data to a data monetization agency.
The same research suggests that AccuWeather can also track your iPhone activity and location data even when you have location services switched off.
The research comes from Will Strafach, CEO of Sudo Security Group, a globally-recognized Information Security organization.
The research was carried out on iOS, so it’s not yet been discovered whether the same activity is happening on Android or other devices that support the AccuWeather app.
In Will Strafach’s research, it was found that the AccuWeather app would often send location data from the phone’s GPS to an organization called Reveal Mobile. In fact, even though AccuWeather wasn’t open at the time, Strafach recorded the connection being made to Reveal Mobile 16 times in a period of 36 hours.
As well as tracking your iPhone activity via GPS, the AccuWeather app would also keep track of your current WiFi connection and check to see whether the Bluetooth was switched on or off.
Interestingly, RevealMobile uses this location data to help with location-based marketing campaigns. Fortunately, there isn’t anything malicious going on here, it should be made clear that using AccuWeather could potentially lead you to lose your privacy when it comes to your location.
With the information that AccuWeather provides RevealMobile, the location-based marketing organization can then use algorithms to help nearby stores, restaurants, and businesses have their advertisements reach those that frequent areas close to their business location.
In response to Strafach’s research, both RevealMobile and AccuWeather made a statement. In the statement, it was made clear that users can opt-out of the location tracking. However, it’s not made clear enough in the app description that location data is being sold to a marketing agency.
“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.”
This time around, it seems like AccuWeather aren’t legally in the wrong, but morally they made the wrong decision to not make it clearer to their users that their app is tracking your iPhone activity. Fortunately, AccuWeather also only has permission to access data about your GPS and WiFi network, so SMS tracking, email tracking, or other snooping from AccuWeather isn’t possible.
RevealMobile also made it clear about how the GPS data was used by their marketing algorithms.
“Location data also informs the home and work location of customers. Pairing this information with existing demographic targeting criteria allows retailers to target consumers with a high propensity to visit based upon two of their most relevant locations.”