Friday is here – delete the pub apps, they take more than just your orders

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You may want to remove the puborder apps on your iPhone or Android due to privacy concerns (Image: GETTY • GOOGLE PLAY STORE)

England has now repealed almost all emergency laws designed to stop the spread of Covid-19, including social distancing rules, no limit on the number of people who can meet or attend events, table service is no longer required in pubs and restaurants , and face coverings are not required by law in confined spaces, such as public transportation or theaters. Some establishments will still require face coverings and other rules to encourage customers who would otherwise be put off, but these rules cannot be enforced by law.

Now that table service is no longer a requirement, it might be time to take another look at the number of pub apps downloaded to your smartphone. These applications, which allow customers to order food and drinks at the table with a smartphone, have been extremely popular in recent months. Most of the biggest pub chains in the UK have launched their own application to make ordering from your seat hassle free.

But while the prospect of queuing up shoulder-to-shoulder with other customers at the bar may not be all that appealing, it’s worth remembering that some of the most popular apps take a lot more than your drink order. And that may not be a trade-off you’re willing to make.

In conversation with WIRED Michael Veale, lecturer in digital rights and regulation at University College London, said of the worrying trend of collecting data from these applications: “When hospitality industry became mandatory to include contact information last year, there was no clear privacy protection tool to help with this. In many hospitality establishments, they are still using the technology from the start of the pandemic last year to fulfill orders and table service, which collects unnecessary information.”

Pub App Order Payment Privacy Concerns Update Wetherspoons Greene King Fullers Youngs Update

Wetherspoons launched its ordering app in 2017 – well before the arrival of the coronavirus on British shores (Image: WETHERSPOONS • GOOGLE PLAY STORE)

wetherspoons

Wetherspoons launched its pub app before the pandemic had gripped the world. In 2017, the Wetherspoons app allowed customers to order drinks, snacks and food at their table. Payment is made through the app using a credit or debit card, or systems such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, which use fingerprint or facial recognition to verify your identity and approve the payment.

Although the ordering app has been around for years, its use has skyrocketed during the pandemic. As you would expect, the Wetherspoons app collects information from each of the forms completed in the app, including name, home address, email address, and phone number.

To determine which branch of Wetherspoons you are in, the app uses the GPS functionality built into your smartphone. The Android version of the app seemingly has broader permissions than the iPhone version of the same app. On Android, the Wetherspoons app has the ability to read, modify, and delete items from your USB storage. It can also take pictures and video from your camera.

Pub App Order Payment Privacy Concerns Update Wetherspoons Greene King Fullers Youngs Update

Greene King offers a similar service to Wetherspoons with its app, but siphons a little more data (Image: GREENE KING • GOOGLE PLAY STORE)

Greene King

Like Wetherspoons, Greene King has an application designed to find and reserve tables at any of 1,600 locations in the UK. Once you’re in the pub, the iPhone and Android app can be used to order drinks and food at your table.

If you use the app for this, the software will record your names, contact details, booking information, loyalty card details, transaction details, date of birth, email addresses, telephone number and payment details.

While that all makes sense, the privacy labels in the App Store reveal that Greene King stores your search history, identifies the make and model of your smartphone, as well as how you interact with the app. That’s a little less logical.

Like the Wetherspoons app, the Google Play Store reveals more extensive permissions than the iPhone version of the app. Like its Wetherspoons counterpart, Greene King can read, modify, and delete the content stored on your USB storage, as well as take photos and videos.

Order pay

The OrderPay app is used by some 1,500 pubs, bars and restaurants in the UK. The software, available on iPhone and Android, collects the usual name, email addresses, phone number, and details about how you decided to log into the app. It also stores payment information, but not individual credit or debit card numbers. That all makes sense.

Perhaps more worryingly, every time you launch the app it will siphon GPS data, as well as allergen and nutritional information, transaction history – including what you bought and how much was spent, IP address – which can be used to find your location. , cell phone service provider, phone model, and “cookie, pixel, and beacon identification information,” plus nearby Bluetooth signals.

Konrad Kollnig of the University of Oxford, who built the TrackerControl Slim app that analyzes how Android software tracks and shares data, told WIRED OrderPay sends some of this data to six separate record-keeping companies. That’s the highest number of all pub apps analyzed. It also shares the location data with the OrderPay headquarters.

According to Kollnig, that step is not necessary at all. He explains: “A list of all pubs can be downloaded on the Android device – as is done by the Wetherspoon app.”

In its fine print, OrderPay says it will keep personal information for up to six years and “may transfer your personal information outside of the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Economic Area (EEA).

Pub App Order Payment Privacy Concerns Update Wetherspoons Greene King Fullers Youngs Update

MyPub is used by a number of different brands, from Slug and Lettuce to WalkAbout (Image: MYPB • GOOGLE PLAY STORE)

My Pub

Finally, MyPub is the ordering app used by Stonegate Pub Company, which is behind all Slug & Lettuce and Walkabout locations, as well as 4,500 other pubs in the UK. The privacy policy states that MyPub may collect names, email addresses, contact phone numbers, passwords, as well as date of birth, gender, interests and preferences. This is the first pub app that takes gender into account.

All this information is ported and used to “better understand our customers and online users, including profiling”. While that could result in promotions and events better suited to the people who visit these locations… you’re giving away a lot of personal information for a pretty small benefit. If you’re ordering at the bar, you’d be a little surprised if the bartender had to jot down your gender, interests, date of birth, name, email, and cell phone number before handing you a drink — just so your local her customers understand.

Like some of the other pub apps on the list, Android users are hit harder by data collection. According to the listing in the Google Play Store, MyPub can read, modify or delete the content stored on the USB storage attached to your phone. It can also take photos and videos as needed and track your location using GPS.

“MyPub and Greene King seem to have the best privacy features of the apps studied,” concludes Kollnig.

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Neela Josh
I work as the Content Writer for Gaming Ideology. I play Quake like professionally. I love to write about games and have been writing about them for two years.

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