How Pelmorex Corporation Collects and Uses Canadian Cellphone Data

Image: OpenMedia

Bryan Short from consumer advocacy group OpenMedia recently published a report on how the Pelmorex Corporation, the company that owns the Weather Network and other weather-related apps, is collecting and using Canadians’ data.

According to the report, weather apps that come preinstalled on both Apple’s iOS devices and Android devices from Google source their data from Pelmorex. This gives the company a wide playing field when it comes to data collection opportunities.

Through its weather apps, Pelmorex is able to collect users’ IP addresses, locations, and web browsing history (through cookies). All of this information is invaluable to advertisers and, in some cases, law enforcement.

For marketing purposes, companies like Environics Analytics can sort the data collected by Pelmorex into demographic categories and geographic areas to make it easier for advertisers to target their campaigns more precisely.

Through its Prizm program, Environics Analytics puts Canadians into 67 different groups, ranging from most to least affluent, with names like “Asian Sophisticates” for the groups at the wealthy side of the spectrum, and names like “Indigenous Families” for the least affluent groups.

Pelmorex collected user data whenever someone checks the weather on their phone. Usually, “data brokers” like Pelmorex combine the information they collect with other data that they have either collected or purchased and put it up for sale.

The resulting data is purchased by a third party like BlueDot, which turns around and sells this information to someone else, possibly after combining it with even more data that would make it more useful for buyers.

A recent Parliamentary investigation revealed that data collected by Pelmorex was ultimately sold to the federal government of Canada.

Short sent a data access request for this own data to Pelmorex, but the request was ultimately denied. The company claimed that since it stores IP addresses and users’ location information separately, the data it collects “does not constitute PII [personally identifiable information] under PIPEDA.”

Short has since filed a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada over Pelmorex’s unwillingness to grant access to his data.

Pelmorex also manages Canada’s Alert Ready system, which sends out emergency wireless alerts to cellphones, TV and radio.

OpenMedia is also advocating against the proposed Rogers-Shaw merger, which is set to go to trial before the competition tribunal in late November.

Update (September 21)Following publication, Pelmorex reached out to iPhone in Canada via email and denied these allegations. “Pelmorex never sells or shares personal data,” a spokesperson for the company wrote. The company added that it is compliant with all aspects of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).