Daily deal site Groupon has revealed details of its plan to offer location-based offers through smartphones, responding on 8/18 to Congress on questions about its privacy policies. Groupon general counsel David Schellhase said the company is developing technologies that will track customers’ location, even if they don’t have a Groupon app open on their phones. The details were sent in a letter to the co-chairmen of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus: Joe Barton (R-TX) Republican, and Edward Markey (D-MA). The congressmen wrote to Groupon CEO Andrew Mason in July asking about the company’s new privacy and data collection policy.
“Groupon currently does not access location data when the Groupon mobile application is not running. However, our customers are asking for services that require this functionality,” Schellhase wrote.
“A customer may wish to have a ‘push’ notification appear in her email around the noon hour to alert her that a lunch special is being offered at a nearby restaurant,” Schellhase wrote as an example. “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 app is not running on the device at that time. We are working to provide this type of functionality in the future.”
Schellhase stressed that customers must “explicitly consent” to give their location information to Groupon, otherwise the company won’t collect the data, reported The Chicago Tribune.
Markey seemed satisfied: “It’s appropriate that Groupon currently uses an opt-in feature for location-based services,” he said in a statement 8/18. “This enables consumers to decide whether to grant permission for Groupon to pinpoint where a consumer is at any given moment so it can make offers tailored to that location.”
Groupon recently filed for a $750 million IPO.
RBR-TVBR observation: Tracking technology such as this will become the norm down the road and marketers will embrace it in a big way. However, if you take a look at how much ad spam there is already in your in-box, too many locational alerts could become overkill—even if they’re just popping on the screen from an app. As long as mobile tracking is specifically opt-in, we see no immediate issues with privacy.