Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee chain known for its wholesome image, has been routinely tracking its customers’ movement through an app. And even worse, it’s been doing this without disclosing it properly to customers, violating Canadian privacy laws.
A report from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, a regulatory agency that oversees federal laws on privacy, revealed the recent transgressions from Tim Hortons.
Apparently, people who downloaded the Tim Hortons mobile app had been subjecting themselves to the tracking. The app would record users’ movements and location every few minutes, even if it wasn’t open at the time.
“Tim Hortons clearly crossed the line by amassing a huge amount of highly sensitive information about its customers. Following people’s movements every few minutes of every day was clearly an inappropriate form of surveillance. This case once again highlights the harms that can result from poorly designed technologies as well as the need for strong privacy laws to protect the rights of Canadians,” reads a statement from Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien.
According to the report, the app did, in fact, ask for permission before it began tracking. However, it only disclosed that it would track locations while people were using the app.
The permission request didn’t say anything about tracking while the app was not in use.
What happens to Tim Hortons now?
Part of the role of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is to make suggestions to companies when it finds them in violation of one of the laws it oversees.
As part of this investigation, the office recommends that Tim Hortons delete any location data that it still has.
The company has also been asked to develop an all-encompassing privacy management program. And it must report back to the office with details of the changes it has made to protect user privacy. Tim Hortons agreed to all of the recommendations.
It’s unclear what exactly will come of this in the future. But one thing is certainly true. Many people aren’t going to look at Tim Hortons with the same kind of admiration. Not after they find out that it’s essentially been spying on its customers regularly.
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