A Popular Coffee Business Used Its App To Track User’s Locations

A Popular Coffee Business Used Its App To Track User's Locations
Image: Tim Hortons

Canadian regulators made a shocking discovery about Tim Hortons, a popular fast-food chain operating in the U.S., UK, Canada, and 11 other countries. The fast-food chain used excessive tracking measures on its clients who used its official app.

Canada’s privacy commissioner led an investigation that revealed an astonishing amount of geolocation data. Tim Hortons was doing data collection without any prior information or warning to the users. The fast-food chain did admit to collecting geolocation data from its users. But it denied using any personal data collected from the users.

When did Tim Hortons investigation begin?

James McLeod, a journalist for the Financial Post shared his plight with the internet back in 2020. He said that the app recorded his GPS coordinates over 2700 times in five months. The app logged his geolocations whenever he visited his parent’s farm in rural Ontario while boarding a flight in Toronto. Even when he checked in to a Winnipeg hotel for a cousin’s wedding, the Tim Hortons app was keeping tabs.

James McLeod felt that the app was invading his privacy without even being honest about it. After his public share, the Canadian regulators felt that Tim Hortons was a matter worth looking into. The app didn’t disappoint at all because it tracked copious amounts of geolocation data after every few minutes.

Tim Hortons
Image: Tim Hortons

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,” Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien said as per a story by Gizmodo.

How did the fast-food chain respond?

Tim Hortons said that the very limited use of this data was on an aggregated, de-identified basis to study trends in its business. It didn’t log or use any information from the guests. Moreover, the app removed the geolocation tracking technology soon after the story broke out.

Phone makers like Apple have introduced ATT measures to curb app tracking. Because of this, apps cannot track users without consent. Facebook and Snapchat are already suffering huge losses because of this feature. Less users opt for ad tracking because no one loves companies snooping into their personal life.

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