Tim Hortons App Violated Privacy Laws, Infuriating Canadian Authorities

By | 03/06/2022

As concerns about surveillance in an increasingly digital age continue to mount, Canadian restaurant chain Tim Hortons is one of the latest companies to come under fire for privacy violations.

A federal privacy commissioner’s investigation into the Tim Hortons mobile app, which has four million users, revealed that the app gathered vast amounts of sensitive user data without consent, per CBC. The investigation began two years ago after the Financial Post reported that the Tim Hortons app collected users’ geolocation without their knowledge, even when they weren’t using the app.

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According to the report, Tim Hortons tracked granular location data for the purpose of targeted advertising and product promotions — though the chain never actually utilized the information for those purposes. The restaurant chain used third-party company Radar to collect the data, and the investigation found that there were inadequate contractual protections for users’ personal information.

“The location tracking ecosystem, where details of our daily lives are treated as a commodity to be exploited to sell us products and services such as a cup of coffee, heightens the risk of mass surveillance,” Daniel Therrien, Canada’s privacy commissioner, said at a teleconference for journalists on Wednesday.

Tim Hortons stopped gathering location data in August 2020, and the company has agreed to delete all granular location data and have its third-party service providers do the same. Additionally, the company agreed to create a privacy management program for the app and all future apps to prevent another privacy violation.

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“We’ve strengthened our internal team that’s dedicated to enhancing best practices when it comes to privacy, and we’re continuing to focus on ensuring that guests can make informed decisions about their data when using our app,” the company said in a statement.

Restaurant Brands International Inc, Tim Hortons’ parent company, is down 24% year over year.

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