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Groupon Privacy Changes Reveal More About You

The group-buying service says it now collects location data through its mobile apps and may share it.

Groupon's made some changes to its privacy policy that give the company broader latitude with users' personal information.

One major change allows Groupon to collect location data through the daily deal service's mobile apps. Groupon may use this data to present marketing deals to users.

Location tracking is a touchy subject, given the recent brouhaha over how Apple and Google treat location data, but this particular use makes sense. If you're in Los Angeles, you wouldn't want to see daily deals from New York.

More concerning, perhaps, is the expansion of personal information to include interests and habits. Again, this seems logical considering the service Groupon provides. If you eat a lot of steak, Groupon should show you more deals for steakhouses.

But this broader definition gets a bit creepy when you consider who else besides Groupon has access to this information. As VentureBeat's Meghan Kelly points out, Groupon doesn't control what partners and merchants do with personal data:

"We encourage Groupon Merchants and business partners to adopt and post privacy policies," Groupon's policy reads. "However, the use of your Personal Information by such parties is governed by the privacy policies of such parties and is not subject to our control."

It's worth noting that bigger companies are participating in Groupon as well, all governed by their own privacy policies. Groupon's new policy says it shares personal data with these partners.

Expedia, for instance, has partnered with Groupon for travel deals, and Expedia's own privacy policy lets the company share your personal information with third-party vendors, business partners, referring Websites, and sister sites such as Hotwire. Groupon users are subject to these policies just by signing up for Groupon's Getaway Deal offers.

At least Groupon's being up front about it, notifying users of the new policy by e-mail and attempting to explain the changes in plain English. Do you really expect any Internet company to update its privacy policy to give itself less control over user data?

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