Tim Hortons app tracked movements and recorded users

Tim Hortons app tracked movements and recorded users

Well-known coffee chain Tim Hortons is in hot water after Canadian investigators determined that users of its mobile app were being tracked and recorded.

In a news release, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said that the app violated privacy laws in collection of ‘vast amounts’ of sensitive location data.

“People who downloaded the Tim Hortons app had their movements tracked and recorded every few minutes of every day, even when the app was not open, in violation of Canadian privacy laws, a joint investigation by federal and provincial privacy authorities has found,” it said.

The investigation concluded that Tim Hortons’ continual and vast collection of location information was not proportional to the benefits Tim Hortons may have hoped to gain from better-targeted promotion of its products.

The investigation also showed that the chain continued to collect location data for a year after shelving plans to use it for target advertising.

The company says it only used aggregated location data in a limited way, to analyze user trends such as whether users switched to other coffee chains.

“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 harm that can result in poorly designed technologies as well as the need for strong privacy laws to protect the rights of Canadians,” said Daniel Therrien, privacy commissioner of Canada.

The privacy authorities recommended that the chain delete any remaining location data and direct third-party service providers to do the same, establish and maintain a privacy management program that includes privacy impact assessments for the app and any other app it launches and report back with the details of measures it has taken to comply with the recommendations.

Tim Hortons has agreed to implement the recommendations.

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