Groupon responds to Markey, Barton letter questioning privacy changes


(Scott Olson/GETTY IMAGES)

This post has been updated since it was originally published.

In a response to questions from lawmakers over changes to its privacy policy, Groupon said that it has taken pains to ensure that consumers were informed of its policy changes and have control over their own information.

Following a Washington Post report, Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.) sent a letter to Groupon asking for more information on changes it made to its privacy policy to share more information on demographics, social and geolocation data with its business partners.

“According to the article, Groupon will dramatically expand the categories of personal information it collects and shares with its partners,” Markey and Barton wrote in their July 21 letter. “As co-chairmen of the bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, we would like to gain greater insight into Groupon’s privacy policies.”

Answering the lawmakers’ questions about why the company removed a portion of its privacy policy dealing with children, Groupon responded that it did so because it does not target children with its products. “Groupon’s Sites and its underlying services are clearly designed for adult customers,” the company wrote, adding that using their services requires a valid credit card.

Groupon also said that while it does not currently collect location data when consumers aren’t logged into the site, customers have been asking for this functionality for “push” alerts, and the company is planning to add that feature to its service in the future.

The company also said that it knows that privacy is not a one-size-fits-all issue. “We understand that our customers want relevant and timely offers delivered in a privacy-sensitive manner at an exceptional value,” the company wrote. “We also understand that our customers can easily vote with their feet if they feel that we are not striking the right balance in all four areas — relevance, timeliness, respect for privacy and value.”

“In an effort to make this a reality, [Groupon] should never let convenience compromise the integrity of the company,” Barton said in statement responding to the company’s letter. “Because it is growing at such a fast pace, I fear for the potential misuse of consumers’ personal information as more partnerships are created.”

Markey expressed similar concerns, saying that he approves of Groupon’s decision to use an “opt-in” feature for its location-based services.

“Transparent, easily understandable privacy policies and practices are key here, and I will continue to monitor this rapidly developing area of the industry,” Markey said in a statement.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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