UPDATED 23:09 EST / AUGUST 22 2017

accuweather_-_panoramio APPS

AccuWeather app caught sharing data even when users opt out

Weather forecasting company AccuWeather Inc. has allegedly been caught spying on users.

A report published Tuesday detailed how its iPhone app sends data back to the company and an advertising partner even when users don’t give it permission.

First spotted by security researcher Will Strafach, the AccuWeather iOS app is alleged to send location data to the company along with details of the Wi-Fi router to which the phone is connected and its Media Access Control or MAC address. At least some of that data is also forwarded to AccuWeather’s “data monetization” partner Reveal Mobile, allowing the ad company to identify where a user is currently located, including in some cases an actual physical address.

Raleigh, North Carolina-based Reveal Mobile Inc. is a “data tracking” company that claims on its website to convert “mobile location signals into high value audiences,” allowing partners to “generate more mobile revenue, with or without ads.” How it generates revenue without advertising isn’t particularly clear, but it may be selling data to other ad companies.

In Strafach’s test, his Apple Inc. iPhone sent data to both AccuWeather and Reveal Mobile 16 times over a period of 36 hours, “roughly once every few hours.”

An app sending data back to the company or related organizations is hardly new, but the case is notable because the AccuWeather app does so even when permission is not granted by the app user.

In a statement, Reveal Mobile attempted to put the blame for the data sharing on AccuWeather, saying that it follows “all app store guidelines, honoring all device level and app level opt-outs and permissions.” For its part, AccuWeather denied the allegations, saying in its separate statement that “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.”

Disturbingly, Strafach added, the Reveal Mobile software development kit — seemingly behind the alleged nefarious data sharing — is used by a number of other iOS apps. But in testing 40 apps that use the SDK, he could identify similar behavior in only one, named “Frank’s Forecast Weather App.”

Photo: Ron Shawley/Wikimedia Commons

Since you’re here …

Show your support for our mission with our one-click subscription to our YouTube channel (below). The more subscribers we have, the more YouTube will suggest relevant enterprise and emerging technology content to you. Thanks!

Support our mission:    >>>>>>  SUBSCRIBE NOW >>>>>>  to our YouTube channel.

… We’d also like to tell you about our mission and how you can help us fulfill it. SiliconANGLE Media Inc.’s business model is based on the intrinsic value of the content, not advertising. Unlike many online publications, we don’t have a paywall or run banner advertising, because we want to keep our journalism open, without influence or the need to chase traffic.The journalism, reporting and commentary on SiliconANGLE — along with live, unscripted video from our Silicon Valley studio and globe-trotting video teams at theCUBE — take a lot of hard work, time and money. Keeping the quality high requires the support of sponsors who are aligned with our vision of ad-free journalism content.

If you like the reporting, video interviews and other ad-free content here, please take a moment to check out a sample of the video content supported by our sponsors, tweet your support, and keep coming back to SiliconANGLE.