Restaurant menu QR codes can track you and invade your privacy – here’s how

Restaurant QR codes are not as trivial as they seem. After the pandemic, many restaurants ditched their plasticized and sprouted physical menus for a more hygienic option: QR codes that lead customers to an online menu. Sounds harmless, right? Well, a new report from The New York Times reveals that these machine-readable labels can invade your privacy.

Companies can implement tracking tools in these black-and-white pixelated codes to target certain customers and collect analytics, raising red flags among privacy experts.

Restaurant QR codes are for security experts

Quoting the National Restaurant Association, the New York Times pointed out that half of American restaurants now use QR codes. Sixty-one percent of restaurants plan to continue offering contactless payment options to restaurant patrons, according to a Square Restaurant Future Report 2021.

QR codes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and unfortunately, invasive tracking technology isn’t going out of fashion either. Some restaurants have created a database of their customers’ order history, email address, and phone number.

“People don’t understand that when you use a QR code, it inserts the entire online tracking device between you and your meal. So your online activity of sitting down to a meal is now part of it. online advertising empire, “said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Another marketing expert, Mobstac CEO Sharat Potharaju, said business owners have no intention of forgoing the benefits QR codes have brought to their bottom line (they help restaurants save up to ‘at 50% on labor costs). Not only can they bundle customer deals and specials, but they also collect data on customer spending habits.

The New York Times noted that Mr. Yum, a startup that sells the technology to create QR-coded menus to restaurants, admitted that the digital menu contains cookies that track customers’ purchase history as well as their phone number. and protected payment information. However, Kim Teo, co-founder of Mr. Yum, said restaurant customer data is only available for this establishment and the information is not sold to third parties.

Sifting through the comments under the New York Times article, some don’t care about the follow-up. “Not having to wait for a waiter to receive and pay the check is worth it,” one poster said. “Some people are too ready to put convenience over personal safety,” replied another.

Whether we like it or not, restaurants collect your data for marketing promotions and run discounts and personalized offers.


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