Groupon successfully sells its mobile location plans to Congress

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Congress has been grilling Groupon about its controversial mobile location plans, which include sharing more information with its partners.

Representatives Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Edward J Markey (D-Mass) wrote to the company asking for more information about the company’s new privacy and data collection policy, which includes the ability to track customers' location, even when they don't have the Groupon app running.

“Groupon is an example of a modern day business success story, but I want to make sure that getting a discount on a meal or a concert ticket doesn’t cost someone their privacy,” said Barton.

"Because it is growing at such a fast pace, I fear for the potential misuse of consumers’ personal information as more partnerships are created. It is vitally important that businesses with online models keep the protection of consumers’ data at the top of their list and leave no room for assumptions."

In its reponse, Groupon general counsel David Schellhase said that the company had made a real effort to publicize its plans and notify customers, who had the ability to turn the feature off. He said that customers had specifically been asking for the new feature.

"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," writes Schellhase.

"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 application is not running on the device at that time."

The senators have declared themselves satisfied: indeed, they seem quite impressed.

"In answering the questions posed by Rep. Markey and myself, the company demonstrated several ways in which they protect consumers’ private information," says Barton.

"I have learned that Groupon desires to deliver offers that are convenient, affordable, and relevant."