Customers should think twice before giving over data on ordering apps, says privacy body

By Sarah Wilson
Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 7:39 am
Privacy experts are concerned many won't read the terms and conditions before handing over personal data. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Customers should think carefully about what personal data they give over when ordering food and drink on an app via their phone, the UK’s body overseeing data privacy has said.

According to reports from the BBC, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) told the BBC that customers should be aware they have a choice about what data to share.

Ordering food and drink via an app has become commonplace during the pandemic as a way to reduce contact between servers and customers.

Often, such apps will ask for personal data such as an email address and home address when the customer orders.

However, venues should only ask for data that is "relevant and necessary", the ICO has said, and customers should know they have a choice about what to hand over.

In spite of pubs, bars and restaurants now being permitted to return to normal service, many have chosen to keep app ordering.

Many businesses favour apps as a new way to interact with customers and speed up the ordering process.

"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," Suzanne Gordon, director of data protection at the ICO told the BBC. 

"Ultimately this is your data, it's your personal information and you need to be confident when you're handing it over and the reasons why."

The UK's four biggest pub chains, representing a quarter of the market - Wetherspoons, Greene King, Mitchells and Butlers and Stonegate - all have their own apps for service.

Developers say the demand for in-house apps has surged during the pandemic. 

While many developers say they follow guidelines on data usage, privacy experts fear that customers are unlikely to read the full terms and conditions before ordering a drink.