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All those QR codes you scan could actually be tracking you

Restaurants everywhere are adopting QR codes, but what are they doing with the data they collect?

restaurant qr codes on android
Image: Unsplash

As COVID restrictions begin to be lifted, places like restaurants and other venues are starting to open back up. If you’ve had the chance to spend any time in public places like this post-pandemic, chances are you’ve noticed the influx of QR codes being used everywhere.

As it turns out, scanning those codes gives companies the ability to gather certain data from your device.

QR codes are small, scannable codes that can be used to share bits of information with consumers. People can scan the codes with their smartphones to get access to relevant information.

Since the COVID pandemic hit, restaurants began using QR codes to share their menus through a customer’s phone. This meant that they wouldn’t have to share physical menus. While this is a good way to get around the traditional menus that we’re used to, there has been some growing concern over what data is shared when a user scans a QR code.

READ MORE: Are QR codes dangerous?

A new report from The New York Times says that scanning a QR code can build an “entire apparatus of online tracking” on a user. When scanning QR codes at places like restaurants, data such as order history, contact information, and sometimes even payment methods. While this information isn’t necessarily exciting, the problem is that there’s nothing stopping companies from selling your data.

The Times spoke with two individual companies, both in the restaurant industry, about how they deal with customer information collected through QR codes. Although both of these companies confirmed that they do not sell any customer data, there’s nothing actually stopping them if they wanted to do so.

Just as these two companies have adopted QR codes into their businesses, so have hundreds if not thousands more. And as of right now, there’s no way of knowing what they’re all doing with the data they’ve collected.

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Staff writer at KnowTechie. Alex has two years of experience covering all things technology, from video games to electric cars. He's a gamer at heart, with a passion for first-person shooters and expansive RPGs. Shoot him an email at alex@knowtechie.com

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