The Weather Channel mobile app.

If you really want to know what’s going on with the weather, it might be less complicated just to look out the window. The city of Los Angeles has filed a complaint against TWC Product and Technology LLC, alleging that the company’s Weather Channel app does not sufficiently disclose to users that it sells their geolocation data to advertisers.

The interesting wrinkle there is that the app does disclose the practice, in terms located in the middle of a much larger and separate privacy policy that users have to actively seek out.

Exactly how much consumer legwork is too much consumer legwork is an area that’s been largely untouched by the law. But with less than a year to go until the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) comes into force, that gray area could find itself getting pushed closer to black and white.

“I think this is going to be another further development of the law to see what actually does the court do here,” said Jonathan Blavin, a partner in the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson. “Does it find those privacy policy disclosures sufficient—and there may be disclosures in other places that the Weather Channel can point to in litigating the case—or does there need to be more here from the perspective of notice and consent?”

A complaint filed last week with the California Superior Court frames the suit within the context of the state’s Unfair Competition Law, alleging that TWC engaged in unfair and fraudulent business practices by deceiving users into allowing its app to collect geolocation data.

The sin described here is one of omission. In other words, if users had been notified that the data could wind up in the hands of advertisers as part of the initial permission request, there’s a chance they may not have consented in the first place.

“I could certainly see, and I’m sure … Los Angeles will argue, that in analyzing the question of fairness it’s not simply sufficient to look at the privacy policy. They’re going to argue that you should look at regulatory agencies, how regulations are analyzing this question to see whether or not this is a fair business practice,” Blavin said.

One of the most prominent regulations on the subject happens to be the forthcoming CCPA, scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Under that law, there would have to be a link or button located conspicuously in the app that allows users to opt out of having their data sold.

Tanya Forsheit, chairwoman of the privacy and data security group at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, thinks there’s a chance that Los Angeles City Attorney Michael Feuer is using the Weather Channel complaint as a test case or dry run before the CCPA’s arrival.

“They want to see if they can do this even just under the unfair practices act, even without all of these other laws,” Forsheit said.

According to her, a company relegating disclosures to its privacy policy is not an uncommon practice. The Weather Channel may have emerged as an attractive target for a suit thanks to its inclusion in a December report by The New York Times examining how businesses process the geolocation data they collect.

For Los Angeles, a successful case might hinge on whether a judge decides that omitting any mention of advertisers from the initial data request is misleading in a way that harms consumers.

“To me, you’ve got a significant challenge because there’s nothing in the law that says that in order to be conspicuous, you have to put it right there when the push comes to say, ‘Can we track your location information?’ What the law says is that it has to be in the privacy policy, and it’s in the privacy policy,” Forsheit said.

Even if The Weather Channel prevails, don’t expect the issue to become a moot point for businesses and the lawyers who represent them. Public awareness regarding their personal data and its handling continues to spike, and with that comes new sensitivities to maneuver.

Forsheit and her firm often talk generally about such areas with their clients. In those instances it may not be about the law so much as, how creepy is too creepy?

“Creepy is not illegal by the way. It’s not a legal term. But it is a very important question today when we look at how businesses use information and whether it’s something that’s going to turn consumers against them,” Forsheit said.