While a recent proposed settlement involving the Tim Hortons app may have raised public awareness of privacy protections, consumers should take care of themselves, a tech expert says.
On July 29, Tim Hortons entered into a proposed settlement of several class action lawsuits alleging the restaurant’s mobile app violated customer privacy.
It comes after federal and provincial privacy watchdogs found the app broke the law by collecting large amounts of location data from its users for targeted advertising.
“If you accumulate points and you get free stuff, if you don’t pay for this product, you are the product, and that’s exactly what happened here and what other apps have also been surprised to do,” tech and cybersecurity analyst Ritesh Kotak told CTV News Channel on Sunday.
As detailed in a June 1 report by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, investigators found that the app asked for permission to access a device’s geolocation, but misled many users into believing that the information would only be accessible when the app was in use. . Instead, the app tracked users as long as the device was on.
Kotak said users can turn off location tracking on their devices, and he personally likes to use different email addresses for different apps.
He also pointed to Bill C-27, legislation that aims to strengthen consumer privacy protections. Introduced in mid-June, it is currently making its way through Parliament.
But as things stand, users are on their own when it comes to protecting their privacy, he said.
Tim Hortons plans to offer free coffee and a donut to affected users as part of the proposed settlement, although the settlement still requires court approval.
The company would also permanently delete any geolocation information it may have collected between April 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020, and require third-party services to do the same.
In total, Tim Hortons said the retail value of a free hot drink is $6.19 and $2.39 for a bakery product plus tax.
A hearing to review the proposed settlement is scheduled to take place in a Quebec court on September 6.
“Think of how much money Tim Hortons has actually made by being able to aggregate this data and then derive insights based on consumer behavior,” Kotak said.
“That kind of price works out to $8.50 for the average person and I think most of us would agree that seems a bit unreasonable.”
With files from The Canadian Press
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