Tim Hortons’ mobile app violated privacy laws by collecting “large amounts” of sensitive geolocation data, according to Canadian privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien.
That’s the conclusion of a joint investigation by federal and provincial privacy commissioners, which was announced on Wednesday.
Thus, people who had downloaded the app before the survey started, i.e. in 2020, their movements were tracked and recorded every few minutes even when their application was not open, contravening Canada’s laws on the protection of personal information.
The app used geolocation data to infer where users live and work, as well as determine whether or not they are on the move. A signal is generated whenever users enter or exit a business that competes with Tim Hortons. The same alert was issued each time the user entered a venue where sporting events were held, where he lived and where he worked.
“Tim Hortons has gone to great lengths to collect a massive amount of highly sensitive information about its customers. This case once again exposes the harm poorly designed technologies can cause. It also highlights the need for strong laws to protect Canadians’ personal information,” said Daniel Terrain, Canadian Privacy Commissioner, in a press release.
The company stopped tracking this data after the investigation began. The legislative consequences of this type of action are likely to be minimal, as there is nothing stipulated in Canadian privacy law and in laws that protect personal information.
“Without proper due diligence, Tim Hortons collected sensitive customer information through his application without their proper knowledge or consent. In order to put an end to this type of practice, Quebec has revised its legislation protecting personal information in order to give more powers to the Commission and to make companies more accountable. This is stated by Mai Diane Poitras, Chairman of the Encounters Committee. Information about Quebec.
Thus, from September 2023, “significant penalties are imposed on companies that do not adopt responsible, transparent and legal practices,” Ms Poitras said.
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