Congress: Seeking Answers to Supercookies, Groupon Consumer Privacy

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The co-chairs of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus — Representatives Edward Markey and Joe Barton — wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission demanding answers about “supercookies” and whether some websites are able to recreate users’ profiles after people deleted their regular cookies.

The letter, which can be viewed here, says “this new business practice raises serious privacy concerns and is unacceptable.”

The congressmen say supercookies secretly collect user data beyond what is normal practice. In addition, it’s harder to know they exist, and in order to remove them, a person would have to delete them manually.

This is just the latest in their battle for enhanced online consumer privacy. In late July, the two Representatives wrote a letter to Groupon asking about the company’s new privacy and data collection policy.

With data and privacy breaches so common, the congressmen asked whether customers’ personal information could be vulnerable to hackers:

“Groupon offers consumers great deals on everything from spa treatments and hot air balloon rides to pub grub and concert tickets, but avoiding full price shouldn’t put your privacy at risk. Groupon has made it clear that they are expanding their business model by collecting more personal information and even tracking your location…Americans should always be informed of how their personal information is being used and be given control of when their information is shared. We want to make sure that ‘the Groupon Promise’ is kept and that going after a good online deal doesn’t lead to your information being sold to the highest bidder.”

In the letter, Reps. Barton and Markey also asked Groupon to respond to questions that include:

  • Is Groupon willing to allow consumers to “opt in” to all tracking methods the company may use when conducting business? If not, why not?
  • What service providers does Groupon use and has there been any instances of a breach in consumer’s personal information during Groupon’s tenure of business with them?
  • What mechanisms does Groupon have in place to identify the age of its consumers?
  • Are Groupon merchants, business partners, and service providers required to adhere to your company’s privacy policies?
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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.