Groupon changes privacy policy to collect, share more information

Groupon on Sunday announced changes to its privacy policy, saying it will begin to collect more information about users to share with business partners. It also said it will use geo-locational information to market its online deals.

The changes were announced in an e-mail to an estimated 83 million subscribers and come as the social deals service seeks to go public. Some analysts estimate an initial public offering could value the company at as much as $30 billion.

The changes could invite greater scrutiny by federal regulators and privacy advocates. The company provided extensive detail on the way it collects, stores and shares data on its users. Regulators have called for such disclosure.

The changes are sweeping and show how the social deals sites and other social networking companies like it plan to use troves of user information to serve up personalized business offerings and advertisements, particularly through location-based services.

Members of the Federal Trade Commission have called for “do-not-track”requirements for companies, which would allow users to prevent Web services from tracking their activity on the Web. Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has introduced a “do not track” privacy bill, and Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.) have introduced a similar bill aimed at preventing the tracking of children online. Groupon said it uses cookies, pixel tags and web beacons, browser analysis tools, and web server logs to track users online.

Specifically, Groupon said it would expand the categories of “personal information” it collects and shares with partners, such as Expedia. Now, Groupon will share data on interests and habits with third-parties. Other information it shares includes contact information, relationship information, transaction information and mobile location information.

That means a partner like Expedia will know if a user recently bought a coupon to stay at an all-inclusive Cancun resort, went skydiving or bought laser hair removal services as a gift for a friend.

“All of the changes to the updated privacy statement were made to improve readability, provide greater transparency about our information handling practices, address some new types of relationships Groupon is forging and new technologies Groupon is using or may use, and to let you know about the privacy choices you have,” the company said in an explanation of changes.

Related:

Facebook hires former White House spokesman

Web giants fight California privacy bill

Cecilia Kang is a staff writer covering the business of media and entertainment.
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