Posted August 19, 2011 2:22 pm by with 2 comments

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Groupon has an exciting new idea. They’re going to track you through your cell phone at all times so they can send you the most relevant deals exactly when you need them. Out to lunch on Main Street — get 50% off a sandwich at the deli on the corner. Buying tickets at the movies? Here’s a discount on popcorn. No matter where you are. No matter what you’re doing, Groupon is going to find you. And did I mention you don’t have to have have their mobile app running at the time?

Two congressmen, and possibly several thousand mobile users, want to know more. According to an article in Reuters, House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus: Joe Barton from Texas and Edward Markey from Massachusetts have asked Groupon to clarify its data collection and privacy policies. Some of their curiosity stems from Groupon’s recently filed $750 million initial public offering. After that, it’s mostly sheer amazement that Groupon would be so cavalier about wholesale tracking.

Groupon’s general counsel sent a letter to Congress explaining the thought process. In it, he says that right now they can only track users if they have the mobile app open at the time, but they’re hoping to change that very soon.

“In order to choose a relevant deal for the user at the correct time, location information would need to be collected about the user just before noon, even if the Groupon mobile application is not running on the device at that time. We are working to provide this type of functionality in the future.”

Groupon’s defense is that they’re only giving customers what they want, and people do have a right to opt-out if they don’t want to be tracked. AllThingsDigital has a graphic for that.

In the global scheme of things, there are bigger problems in the world. I appreciate that these congressmen are trying to protect us, but I’d rather see them spend their time on truly fraudulent scammers who rob innocent people of their hard earned cash.

Groupon is giving people what they want, a faster, easier way to save a buck. If people don’t read the fine print or simply think through how the information got to them, that’s not Groupon’s fault. I’m an intelligent human being and when I visit an online store and an hour later I see an ad for that same store on a different website, I know it’s no coincidence. I don’t need an act of Congress to save me from my obsessive shopping self. That’s a demon I must deal with on my own.

Go ahead, Groupon. Track me. If it means a Buy One Get One lunch deal where I’m standing, I’m all for it. Are you?

  • Joe Steinbeck

    No, this isn’t ok with me. If it was an opt-in service, I wouldn’t have nearly as strong a reaction to it.

    That said, I DO NOT think it’s the place of government to enforce something like “opt-in deals only.” If people are serious about their privacy, the power of the consumer is in our hands. I, personally, would show my discontent by discontinuing use of the service.

  • Does this mean big brother will be watching us?