Privacy fears over the pub apps you use to order a pint

Privacy fears over the pub apps you use to order a pint as it emerges many venues intend to continue using them even though Covid rule is lifted

  • Many pubs and restaurants intend to continue to use apps that allow people to order from their phone rather than at the bar
  • There are concerns that customers are unaware that their data may be shared
  • There are millions of pounds’ worth of transactions going through the apps daily

Customers should not have to surrender excessive amounts of personal information just to order a pint, the UK’s data privacy protection regulator has said.

Apps that allow people to order from their phone rather than at the bar were adopted in pubs and restaurants to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

While they are no longer necessary, many venues intend to continue using them – with millions of pounds’ worth of transactions still going through the apps every day.

However, there are concerns that customers are not reading the small print and are unaware that their data – from email addresses to drinking habits – may be shared with third parties.

Apps that allow people to order from their phone rather than at the bar were adopted in pubs and restaurants to reduce the spread of coronavirus

Earlier this year, the Information Commissioner’s Office fined a company for sending tens of thousands of nuisance emails to customers who had scanned a QR code to get in to venues for contact tracing.

Suzanne Gordon, director of data protection at the ICO, warned businesses they should only ask for information that is ‘relevant and necessary’.

She told the BBC: ‘I think it’s too easy to upload an app and straight away put your name, email address, payment details in, without actually understanding fully where that information may be shared and why it’s being used.’

There are concerns that customers are not reading the small print and are unaware that their data – from email addresses to drinking habits – may be shared with third parties

In May, a company that provided QR codes for venues as part of the Government’s contact tracing rules was found to have used the information collected to send marketing emails to customers.

Tested.me Ltd was fined £8,000 by the ICO for sending 83,000 nuisance emails between September and November last year. Most apps charge pubs around 2 to 3 per cent transaction per order.

In return, the technology can help streamline the ordering process – while also offering the chance to learn more about the customers’ profile and habits.

The UK’s biggest pub chains – Wetherspoons, Greene King, Mitchells and Butlers and Stonegate – now have their own in-house apps.

All four say they follow the guidelines informing customers of their rights and how their data will used.

Luke Beavon, of GoodEats, one of the app providers, said: ‘Hospitality is struggling. But the app gives them the ability to follow up with a customer and get them back through the door again.’

Paul Arnold, ICO deputy chief executive, said: ‘We understand and appreciate the challenge that many small businesses have faced… but you shouldn’t have to give up too much of your personal data to order a pizza or a pint.’

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