Your weather app is spying on you, but it's easy to stop it

Your weather app is spying on you, but it's easy to stop it

You don't have to sacrifice your privacy and personal data to get good weather information.

Why are there so many weather apps? 

It might seem strange, but weather apps are one of the most popular categories of apps available. Are there way more weather nerds out there than we realised? Not necessarily. One reason that there are so many apps is that because the primary weather data is usually free, publically available, and high quality (coming from sources like the U.S. National Weather Service), it is an easy and attractive starting point for app developers. They can quickly build a product, then start using advertisment - or worse, sell user data - to make money. 

Privacy breaches galore

Unfortunately, there have been multiple high-profile cases of privacy breaches when it comes to weather apps. In 2017, AccuWeather faced scrutiny for tracking and sharing user data without consent. In 2018, WeatherBug was found sharing precise location data with 40 companies, and The Weather Channel app faced a lawsuit in 2019 for undisclosed data collection and sales practices.

Beyond these cases, numerous weather apps engage in fraudulent activities, including data tracking, subscription sign-ups, and fake ad clicks, impacting tens of millions of users.

How to protect yourself 

The first step to take, is to conduct a privacy audit on your current weather app. Check its privacy policy, reputation, and news coverage for any past privacy issues. Both iPhone and Android users can review privacy details, permissions, and app activities.

Secondly, if you're really happy with the app you have, consider restricting or disabling the location. The app doesn't really need your exact location down to the square foot, so turning off precise data location can enhance privacy without compromising functionality.

Ever heard the saying "if the product is free, you're the product?". Many weather apps offer their services for free because they are turning around and selling your user data to marketers. One easy way to avoid this is to pay for an app directly, so that they don't have to compromise your data in order to make money. Investing in a subscription-based, privacy-friendly app can be a reasonable trade-off.

Finally, consider ditching the weather app altogether. If real-time updates and notifications aren't essential to your day-to-day, bookmarking a trustworthy weather website on your home screen is an easy way to keep up to date without worrying about having your location tracked.