Members of the Federal Trade Commission have pushed for do-not-track requirements from Internet-based companies but social coupon Network Groupon isn't waiting around for any rulings. Groupon users among the company's 83 million subscribers who have signed up for some services now will divulge everything from relationship information to transaction information and mobile location information and the company will share it.
For many people, that's divulging more information to a company than family members know -- financial data and specific whereabouts in particular.
But Groupon doesn't care, it's all about marching toward the big IPO looming in the future, expected to raise $1 billion and value the company at roughly $30 billion. So now the company has moved against the current trend of other social networks and Internet companies, and also the calls of members of the FTC, altering its privacy polices to collect and share more information.
Groupon, the world's largest social daily coupon network on a fast-growth pace and about to launch its stock publicly with an IPO, said Sunday it is broadening its definition of personal information to include interests and habits, expanding its previous user information collection and sharing practice. Its 83 million users were notified of the changes by email.
For instance, the company said a Groupon partnership that offers travel deals to users through Internet travel site Expedia means that personal information collected can be shared with the Web site if Groupon users subscribe to get travel deals. Groupon said additional information collected and shared with Expedia, as one example, for use on its new mobile application Groupon Now may include relationship information, transaction information, financial account information and mobile location information.
That's a lot of important personal data divulged.
Facebook, the world's largest social network, has been under fire in the past year for how it shares information with advertisers and also about its privacy controls. Facebook has responded by working to make its privacy controls more user-friendly and also by limiting in some instances what information is shared.
Members of the FTC, in pushing for a do not track requirement, want to prevent Web companies from tracking user activity on the Web, and also selling that activity to others. Groupon's new relaxed privacy policies, which include tracking and sharing financial transaction details, is among the most far-reaching any new media company of its size has tackled, and it's sure to come under user and federal scrutiny.
Sen. John Jay Rockefeller (D-Mass) has introduced a version of a do not track bill, and Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.) have introduced similar measures that would prevent the tracking of children online. But anyone signed up with Groupon for specific services, including children, can now be tracked and reported and the company says that information will include relational connections and specific location.
As for transparency, Groupon get credits for being so forthcoming and detailed about its changes. But with legislative watchdogs peering closely, especially at the time of the company's must-watched IPO advancement, it's not like Groupon had any choice in the matter.
In the end, though, it's only users who sign up for Groupon programs who don't want such information shared who will be truly transparent. And that's not a good thing.