Coffee chain discontinues detailed location tracking after Financial Post report brings scrutiny

Coffee chain discontinues detailed location tracking after Financial Post report brings scrutiny

Four different privacy commissioners announced Monday that they will be launching a joint investigation into data collection practices by Tim Hortons.
Meanwhile, the company has announced that it has discontinued its detailed location tracking after coming under public scrutiny.
A statement posted on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada website Monday announced that they are being joined by the Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia privacy commissioners.
“The OPC will look at whether the organization is obtaining meaningful consent from app users to collect and use their geolocation data for purposes which could include the amassing and use of detailed user profiles, and whether that collection and use of the data is appropriate in the circumstances,” the brief statement said.
“The federal Privacy Commissioner’s office considers this to be an issue of great importance to Canadians given the privacy issues it raises. Geolocation data can be very sensitive as it can reveal information about the habits and activities of individuals, for example, medical visits or places that they regularly frequent.”
The watchdog agency said that no additional details will be provided, and they will not be doing interviews because it is an active investigation.
Earlier this month, the Financial Post published a story detailing the ways that the Tim Hortons app was collecting location data on users. The company was logging user location as often as every three to five minutes, and using a third-party company called Radar Labs to analyze that data.
In many cases, this tracking was taking place in the background, even when the app wasn’t open.
Through Radar’s analysis, Tim Hortons was able to infer the exact location of users’ homes and workplaces, and the company was making a log every time they believed that a person visited one of their competitors, such as Starbucks and McDonald’s.
In a brief, emailed statement, Tim Hortons chief corporate officer Duncan Fulton announced that the company has discontinued its detailed location tracking program.
“Since Tim Hortons launched our mobile app, our guests always had the choice of whether they share location data with us, including ‘always’ sharing location data — an option offered by many companies on their own apps,” Fulton said.
“We recently updated the Tim Hortons app to limit the collection of location data to only while guests have our app open, even if a guest has selected ‘Always’ in their device settings.”

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