The convenience of checking the weather on your phone might be easy, but it isn’t free of consequences.
According to a recent blog post by OpenMedia‘s privacy campaigner, Bryan Short, Canadians’ personal data is sold to third parties, including the federal government, when they use weather apps installed on their phones.
The Pelmorex Corporation, the parent company of the Weather Network and other weather-related apps, collects personal information and sells it in a live bidding process whenever a user connects to a property the company owns. The weather apps that come installed on Apple and Android devices also source their data from Pelmorex.
IP addresses, locations, and web browsing history are some information Pelmorex collects.
“This data has immense value to advertisers and marketers who are looking for audiences in specific demographic categories and geographic areas,” Short writes.
Some companies buy this data to sort people into categories that could lead to discriminatory practices. Environics Analytics, for example, sorts Canadians into 67 groups of affluence. “Asian Sophisticates” sits on the wealthy end of the spectrum, while other labels like “Indigenous Families” sits on the other side.
Furthermore, a May 2022 Parliamentary investigation found Pelmorex was one of the companies that sold personal user information to user data company BlueDot, which sold it to the federal government.
“This cycle can continue in perpetuity, with our data being sold to untold amounts of third parties, and combined with other data, creating new risks for re-identification and discrimination, and further clouding our ability to exercise any meaningful control over our own information,” Short says.
However, Sam Sebastian, Pelmorex’s CEO, points to a number of flaws in the report. In an email to MobileSyrup, Sebastian said the company doesn’t sell personal or location data through a live bidding process. While it does run some weather applications, it doesn’t supply data to apps.
“Pelmorex is deeply committed to data privacy and security. Our privacy practices of transparency to users and safeguarding their data received the gold standard Privacy by Design certification,” Sebastian said. “We are also compliant with all aspects of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).”
Updated 21/09/2022 2:49pm: The article now includes a response from Pelmorex.
Image credit: Shutterstock