A picture of a weather application in front of an ominous black and red storm map.
Jason Fitzpatrick / How-To Geek
Weather apps have a shaky history of respecting your privacy. Picking an app with a privacy-friendly and transparent privacy policy is important to safeguard your personal data and location history.

You look at your weather app to check for rain and scan the radar, not to be on somebody’s radar. But millions of people use weather apps that track them and violate their privacy. Here’s why it matters and what to do about it.

Why Are Weather Apps Such a Privacy Nightmare?

If you’ve searched for weather apps in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, you’ve likely been shocked by the sheer number of them. And not just the number of them but the number of times they’ve been downloaded—some of the most popular weather apps have millions of downloads.

There are a few reasons for that. First and foremost, people love weather apps. Who doesn’t like having the little computer in their pocket check the weather for them and even push notifications to their watch? From getting rain information to help you plan your work day or air quality warnings to help you plan a hike or bike ride, weather apps are indispensable tools for lots of people.

Second, because weather data is provided for free by many governments, including the U.S. government through the National Weather Service, there is a very low bar to entry for app developers to get their foot in the door. Bang out an app, tap into the National Weather Service or similar agency, and boom, you’ve got something you can throw on the app store. It might not be the best app or most well-known app, but it’s out there, and you can monetize it.

And what’s the easiest way to monetize an app? Not by charging for the app or offering a subscription—a lot of people are unbelievably resistant to paying for an app—but by displaying advertisements, tracking users, and selling user data.

Lest you think we’re just being overly obsessive about privacy in an abstract sense (and hey, nothing wrong with that!) this is hardly a theoretical problem. Here are some concrete examples of privacy violations over the years.

In 2017, AccuWeather made the news when a security researcher discovered the app was tracking and sharing user data (even when the user had opted out). In the fallout, AccuWeather claimed they had no idea about the issue and blamed a service they were partnered with, but given that the CEO of AccuWeather had a long history of lobbying to restrict the National Weather Service to gain a competitive edge, it’s understandable people took the claim with a grain of salt.

In 2018, the New York Times tested many popular apps and tracked their data collection and distribution patterns. Notable to our discussion here about weather apps, the popular weather app WeatherBug was found to be sharing user’s precise location data with 40 different companies.

In 2019, it was the Weather Channel app’s turn in the hotseat. The company was sued on the grounds that the app was collecting and selling user data in a way that was not clearly disclosed to the users and a violation of their privacy. They later settled out of court but kept up with the user tracking and data sales, just with an updated privacy policy.

And that’s just highlighting very high-profile apps used by tens of millions of people. The app stores have been filled with shifty weather apps for years, not unlike the veritable epidemic of shifty flashlight apps. In 2019, security researchers revealed many weather apps were to be not only tracking and collecting data, but also subscribing users to services, faking advertisement clicks, and other outright fraudulent activities.

It’s hardly hyperbole to say that tens of millions of people have unwittingly had personal information, including precise data about their daily movements, sold to advertisers as a result of weather app practices.

We can’t speak for everyone, but we’re certainly not on board with trading away that level of privacy for anything, let alone super-duper-up-to-date weather alerts or air quality notifications.

Here’s What to Do About Weather App Tracking

an image of the iOS data collection record screen.
A weather app should track storms, not you.

So there are clearly serious concerns about data privacy and weather apps. Where does that leave you, the end user who just wants to know if it’s going to rain today or if the pollen count is high enough, you might consider taking extra allergy medicine or wearing a mask while walking the dog?

While we’ll suggest some great privacy-centered weather apps in the next section, let’s talk about best practices and considerations first.

Give Your Current App a Privacy Audit (And Be Prepared to Ditch It)

You probably have an app already installed on your phone. You might really like that app. We hate to tell you to ditch it, but you should give serious consideration to doing so if it doesn’t pass a basic privacy audit.

Search for information about your weather app of choice. Check out the app’s entry on both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Privacy transparency has improved over time thanks to public awareness and in response to pressures from legislation in the European Union and California.

How does your weather app use data? What is the company’s privacy policy? Is the company currently in the news, or has it been in the past for privacy concerns or violations? With the number of weather app options out there, it’s probably wise to steer clear of any apps with any negative press rather than assume the companies have changed their ways.

You can review iPhone app privacy details before downloading them, after you’ve downloaded them,  and even actively monitor what they are doing on your phone.

You can do the same on your Android phone by checking in the Play Store to review permissions and using features like the Privacy Dashboard to review how apps use data on your phone.

Disable or Restrict Location Tracking for Your Weather App

If you love a particular weather app and its design or feature set so much, you just can’t imagine giving it up, consider restricting or disabling the location tracking.

For most purposes and inquiries, your weather app doesn’t need to know your exact location. You can turn off precise location data on an app-level basis in both Android and iOS. By doing so, your weather app will know you’re somewhere in, say, Los Angeles, and not every address you’ve visited and the route you took to work. At the same time, it will also save you from updating the location if you are traveling over long distances and want the weather updates to stay current. You could also set the app only to check your location when you are using it (but that’s a compromise in itself, too).

If you don’t travel long distances every day for work or don’t mind updating your location in your weather app to a new city when you do, you might want to consider turning off location tracking for the app altogether.

For folks that live and work in the same city or general geographic region, skipping tracking and simply plugging in your town into the app is more than likely sufficient to get the updates they need—no precise or general location sharing required.

Be Prepared to Pay for App Privacy

Who doesn’t love a free app (or a free anything for that matter)? It’s always nice to find an app that doesn’t cost you a dime and does what you want it to do.

The thing is, collecting and aggregating weather data, applying forecast models, and delivering a constant stream of updates to millions of users isn’t cheap. Behind the scenes your weather app (or at least the platform that drives it) is making a boatload of API calls to one or more weather services. Once you get past the low API call rate you might find with a small personal hobby project, it gets expensive.

Somebody has to pay for both the development costs of the app and all those API calls. So even if you have an aversion to paying for an app, consider that your options are usually to put up with ads (and potential privacy issues), to enjoy fewer features, to have your app use subsidized by the people who do pay or donate to the project, or to pay for the service.

If access to many features in a privacy-friendly way is important to you, seriously consider spending $3 a month, $20 a year, or whatever modest sum your app of choice demands.

Consider Ditching Weather Apps Altogether

We think weather apps, at least the privacy-friendly ones, are great. It’s fun to check the radar, it’s useful to get real-time notifications, and with a little careful shopping around for a good one, they’re safe to use.

But maybe you’re using your weather app, not like a real-time monitor but more like an old-timey news service. If you check the weather first thing in the morning and, maybe, before bed to see the forecast for the next day, then perhaps you don’t really need a weather app. You could skip the potential privacy violations issue, the battery drain as your weather app polls remote servers all day, and the whole bit.

You could just bookmark your local weather results on Weather.gov, the Time and Date weather page, or any other service. Maybe even bookmark the website of the local TV news station you used to get your weather reports from and go old school. Either way, if you want weather data and you don’t actually need real-time updates and notifications, there’s nothing wrong with just checking a website when you need an update.

The Best Privacy-Friendly Weather Apps

It’s one thing to scare you about weather app privacy concerns, but it’s bad form to send you away empty-handed with just a sinking feeling and the sense that you need to do your homework.

So if your favorite weather app failed the inspection you just put it through after reading the previous section of the article, we’re here to help offer you some alternatives.

We pored over the privacy policies, public statements, and even interviews with company founders to search out privacy-friendly weather apps that will provide you with a useful and feature-rich experience without selling off your personal information in the process.

For each entry below, you can read about the data collection activities of each app on their respective App Store or Play Store pages. We’ve also linked to each app’s privacy policy as well as any relevant additional information about the app’s privacy practices for you to review.

Apple Weather (iOS)

images showcasing the Apple Weather app.

If you’re an iPhone user, the stock Apple Weather app is worth checking out. It’s free, already installed on your phone unless you removed it, and more than adequate for most people.

We know, we know, historically, it was pretty cruddy and easily blown out of the water by any number of third-party weather apps. But Apple acquired the popular Dark Sky app (and the weather service behind it) and incorporated that into the Apple Weather app. It’s not a Dark Sky clone, by any measure, but it definitely juiced the performance of the Weather app.

Apple Weather isn’t a zero-data collection weather app because it has to collect a small amount of data to offer real-time storm alerts and similar features. The use of that data is spelled out in the Apple Weather privacy policy, and, as a first-party application, it also adheres to Apple’s broader privacy policy too. Regarding privacy, it’s pretty tough to beat using Apple Weather as you’re using a first-party tool provided by the company that also has control over your phone’s operating system and hardware.

You may notice that any sort of “Google Weather” Android equivalent is conspicuously missing from our list, so here is as good a place as any to mention it. There is no stand-alone first-party Android weather application. You can use this clever little trick to get Google weather reports on your Android phone, however, to recreate the first-party weather report experience.

RELATED: How to Get Google's Weather App on Your Android Phone

Carrot Weather (Android/iOS)

images showcasing the Carrot Weather app.

Carrot Weather is a very popular weather app that has built a reputation for itself as the weather app with a silly/snarky “personality” and a slew of useful features.

The company also has a strong stand on privacy—You can read the Carrot Weather privacy policy here. You can also read this plain-English message from the developer or even check out an interview he gave with NPR. Carrot Weather collects data, but only as much as it needs to deliver real-time alerts and features, and it does so in the most data-stripped and anonymized way possible.

The free versions of the app include ads, but the ads are either fake joke ads (which align with the “personality” theme of the app) or ads to upgrade to the premium versions.

In addition to the free version, the app has three subscription tiers. Premium ($4.99/month or $19.99/year) unlocks app customizations, notifications, widgets, and other features. Premium Ultra ($9.99/month or $39.99/year) unlocks additional features, including advanced storm notifications and a live weather map widget. If everyone in your family loves the app, you can save by getting the Premium Family options ($14.99/month or $59.99/year).

Carrot Weather is available for both Android and iOS.

Hello Weather (Android/iOS)

images showcasing the Hello Weather app.

Hello Weather is a polished weather app with a very straightforward plain-English privacy policy. There’s no data collection of any kind by the app. You can tell it where you are or manually activate your current location to update the weather; otherwise, it doesn’t track anything about you.

Not only is the privacy policy very plain-English, but the app itself is too. The interface is simple and clean, and information about things like dew point, wind speed, and such are framed in clear and actionable language describing comfort levels and precautions you should take.

There is a free version, but you can upgrade to the Pro version ($1.99/month or $12.99 a year) to unlock additional data sources, enhanced radar, increased update frequency, smart forecasts, and more.

Hello Weather is available for both Android and iOS.

Ventusky (Android/iOS)

images showcasing the Ventusky weather app.

It’s not often that a weather app, or any app for that matter, makes us pause and go, “Well, that’s pretty slick,” but we love the live weather map in the Ventusky app. It’s front and center when you load the app, and the live wind animations are hypnotic. (If you want to be wowed by the effect, you don’t even have to download the app, you can check it out on their website.)

But hey, don’t let hypnotic “looks like planet Earth is breathing” animations alone sell you on the app. Ventusky is a zero-data-collection, privacy-centric app. You can read the Ventusky privacy policy here.

The free version of the app includes the slick real-time weather map, forecasts, air quality and UV index data, and more. You can upgrade to the premium version for $5.99 a year. The premium version expands the data set to include dew point, humidity, air pressure, and additional data points like wave forecasts and ocean currents.

Ventusky is available for both Android and iOS.

Yr.no (Android/iOS)

images showcasing the Yrno weather app.

We’ll be the first to admit that the Yr.no interface caught us by surprise. The privacy-centered app was created by a collaboration between the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. You might read that and expect a boring app. If we’re being honest, we expected a relatively boring app too.

But Yr.no has a little trick up its sleeve that, frankly, delighted us. When you open the app, your default view is the “Sky” view of the current weather conditions. If you swipe to the left, as if moving through a photo timeline, the app moves you through the forecast while updating the weather data and the animation that represents it in a super smooth and pleasant way.

But hey, if you’re not interested in fancy weather animations, the rest of the app is solid too. It includes regular chart-based forecasts, weather maps (though there’s no radar data), and a “Nearby” function that taps into open webcams near you to give a real-time peek at the weather.

Yr.no is available for Android and iOS.

(Not Boring) Weather (iOS)

images showcasing the Not Boring Weather app.

(Not Boring) Weather is an award-winning fresh take on the weather app genre. It’s not filled with every possible weather data point under the sun, so if you’re a fan of radar scanning and poring over the minute details of the weather around you (and perhaps around the world), this isn’t the app for you.

But if you’ve ever wished for a weather app that rendered your weather report like a 3D game and allowed you to scrub through the weather like you were scrubbing through a Blender CGI demo, then it’s worth checking out.

(Not Boring) Weather is a zero-data collection app, and you can read the privacy policy here. There is no free version, but if you subscribe to the $14.99/year package, you also get the (Not Boring) take on the calculator, timer, and habit tracker.

(Not Boring) Weather is iOS only.

OpenWeather (Android/iOS)

images showcasing the OpenWeather app.

OpenWeather is a simple and straightforward app. There’s no radar, animations, no fancy anything, really—it’s a “just the facts, ma’am,” sort of app.

But what it does have is neatly organized, and you’ll waste no time digging around for anything. The main page is the current conditions, all the secondary details, like barometric pressure and humidity, are packed into a bar just below the current conditions, and there’s a forecast you can dig into right below that. All told that’s the entire app, save for a settings page where you can tweak a few things like unit type.

OpenWeather doesn’t collect or share data. The only information you need to send (optionally) is your location for automatic location-based updates. You can read the OpenWeather privacy policy here.

OpenWeather is available for Android and iOS.

RELATED: Dark Sky Isn't Dead: Here's How to Use It on Android

Appy Weather (Android)

images showcasing the Appy Weather app.

It’s a good sign when an app asks you a privacy-centered question right out of the gate. The first time you run Appy Weather, it asks you immediately, in clear terms, if you’d like location-based weather reports via GPS or to just search for your location manually. But whichever option you select, Appy Weather doesn’t collect or share your data.

The basic free app offers current weather conditions, a timeline view, and hourly/daily forecast projections. You can upgrade to the Plus tier for $4.99/year to remove ads and unlock widgets, notifications, and a basic radar. Pro ($9.99/year) ads in additional data sources (like Foreca and AerisWeather) and custom notifications. and the Storm Pro ($19.99) tier unlocks storm, fire, and lighting alerts, air quality alerts, and additional features.

Appy Weather is Android only.

Geometric Weather (Android/iOS)

images showcasing the Geometric Weather app.

Geometric Weather is a free and open-source weather application. If you’re so inclined, you can review the source code for the Android version here and the iOS version here.

There’s a very template-style generic privacy policy (which we’re including here to keep things consistent), but the real privacy selling point for Geometric Weather is that the code is actively reviewed and maintained by a community. (And, for what it’s worth, the privacy-centric Android phone platform CalyxOS includes Geometric Weather as the default weather app.)

The app includes the current and extended forecast, allergen data, and details like wind speed, humidity, visibility, and more.

We saved Geometric Weather for last because, unlike the rest of the apps on our list, there are a few extra steps required to install it as it is not listed in the App Store or Play Store. To install it on Android, you’ll need to install F-Droid and download it from the F-Droid repository. To install it on iOS, you’ll need to install Apple’s TestFlight beta testing app, and then visit the Geometric Weather iOS github page on your iPhone and click the invite link to download the app through TestFlight.

Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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