Big Chains and small business alike are increasingly collecting personal information from their customers. Should you be concerned?
WHITNEY FILLOON – Eater, October 10, 2018 |
Should diners be worried about the collection of their personal data?
Yes and no.
“Where’s the line between treating customers like VIPs and stalking them?” wondered Nancy Luna, senior editor at Nation’s Restaurant News, during a panel at MUFSO. According to a recent consumer trends report by data collection company InMoment, 75 percent of consumers find most marketing personalization at least somewhat creepy (and 40 percent of brands admit to being creepy).
Creepy doesn’t necessarily translate to dangerous, though, and while the internet is rife with articles about how users can minimize the amount of data companies like Google and Facebook amass on them, at this point anyone who uses the internet regularly can fully expect that there’s already a thorough dossier of information assembled on them. But according to data privacy expert Jessica Ortega, a website security analyst at SiteLock, “Consumers do not need to worry about eateries having their personally identifiable information any more than they would for businesses in other industries, such as social media or retail stores.”
While the FTC has warned that simply Googling information on certain medical conditions can lead to people being classified as higher-risk by insurance companies thanks to the shady business of so-called data brokers, diners shouldn’t worry just yet about a dystopian future in which frequently ordering steak for dinner will hike their health insurance rates. Ortega notes that many countries have introduced legislation that limits the ways companies can share consumer data, and requires them to obtain consumers’ explicit consent before doing so. “This would stop insurance agencies from gathering diner data like eating habits in order to weaponize it against consumers and decline coverage or increase rates,” she says.
Diners should also be aware that some companies may share or sell their personal data to other organizations — which is the information that’s hidden deep within those pages-long user agreements that no one ever reads. On a panel at MUFSO, Scott Absher, CEO of ShiftPixy, a restaurant scheduling and consulting platform, warned restaurateurs about using third-party delivery apps. “The most dangerous thing you can do is surrender your customer data,” Absher says. “That is very powerful data about where people live and what they like to eat [and] they may sell it to your competitors.” Reached for comment, a GrubHub spokesperson says the company does not sell customer data, but that they may at times share “non-personally identifiable information with contracted partners in order to provide targeted, relevant marketing and gain insights to improve our products.”