Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Groupon knows — and tells — a lot about you


CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — A Groupon offer may be a great deal, but it might cost you a little more in privacy, as the deal site enters new partnerships and updates its privacy policy.
andrew-mason-groupon.jpg (400×300)
Groupon, the deal-of-the-day discount site, sent its 83 million users an email recently explaining the changes pretty candidly, if not exhaustively. It’s a step it must take as it forms new partnerships with businesses such as Expedia — it’s rolling out Groupon Getaways with the travel site this week — and as it moves closer to taking the company public.
“We’re not turning around and selling the information, but we need to let you know that there are other parties that have access to it,” Groupon spokeswoman Julie Mossler said.
Its definition of “personal information,” for example, now includes “interests and habits” that it collects through a variety of automated and electronic means, including what you feed it.
But the company, like many other social sites such as Facebook and Google, said it also stores information from cookies, pixel tags, web beacons, browser-analyst tools and web-server logs kept on your computers or mobile devices. Even if you unsubscribe from the site, Groupon will keep that information stored.
Like lots of other sites, including news, travel and shopping sites, it reads your Internet addresses and can track where you’ve been before and after you visit the Groupon site, if you open an email or if you surf to certain sites.
If you use the mobile app, Groupon Now, the company automatically tracks where you are and alerts you to deals nearby.
“In short, if you use a Groupon mobile app and you allow sharing through your device, Groupon may collect geo-location information from the device and use it for marketing deals to you,” the company said.
Mossler said it’s fairly intuitive. “As we are rolling out more innovative products we require more information from consumers so we can provide them more relevant deals,” she said.
Consider this: If you subscribe to the new Groupon travel deals through Expedia, your personal information will be shared with Expedia. That covers a wide range of information such as your birth date, gender, where you live, what kinds of Groupons you buy and even look at, how you pay for them — yes, perhaps even your credit- or debit-card number, expiration date and verification number — and nearly everything you’ve ever put on other social media sites that you’ve linked to through Groupon.
But if you’re an Expedia member, you’ve already given up much of that information to Expedia.
If you’re still looking to better protect your privacy, learn how to better manage your Groupon account. Here’s what the company suggests, according to its privacy policy:
  • Log into your account through the site and go to the “my account” section. If you haven’t been there in awhile, it may be tough to find. It’s in a pull-down under your name on the top right-hand side of the page. Select “manage email subscriptions.” You can unsubscribe from all Groupon emails but you will continue to receive account maintenance and purchase-related emails.
  • You can manage what each browser you use does with cookies and other technology by adjusting its privacy and security settings.
  • You can update your subscription preferences.
  • You also must manage personal information on others sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • If you don’t want Groupon merchants or business partners to send you emails, you must opt out of them when you get them.
  • Remember that Groupon’s privacy policy only addresses the information you give it by interacting with the site. If you link to another site from the Groupon site, you should know what its disclosure practices are.

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