Just a couple months ago, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty inveighed against big tech companies abusing people’s data at a privacy conference in Brussels. She cited a “trust crisis,” ascribing its origins to “the irresponsible handling of personal data by a few dominant consumer-facing platforms.” Rometty did not have to identify the subjects of her criticism by name, Facebook no doubt among them, for people to understand her point.
Now IBM finds itself uncomfortably lumped in with the offenders. The office of the city attorney of Los Angeles has filed suit against an IBM subsidiary for allegedly “deceiving users” about the business unit’s questionable data privacy practices, as the lawsuit states. The city’s complaint follows a recent investigation by the New York Times which drew attention to consumer data exploitation by The Weather Channel app, a forecasting service owned by The Weather Company, whose assets IBM bought for a reported $2 billion in 2015. (It is perhaps worth noting that David Kenny, former CEO of The Weather Company and later head of IBM’s artificial intelligence business, recently became CEO of Nielsen, the world’s largest market research company.)