Privacy Watchdog Provides Consumers Notice and Choice about Ads on Restaurant Websites and Weight Loss App

Arlington, VA – September 5, 2019 – The Digital Advertising Accountability Program, the BBB National Programs’ privacy watchdog, released two new actions today covering the data privacy practices of Dine Brands Global, known for its restaurant brands IHOP and Applebee’s, and the exercise app publisher FitNow. The Accountability Program, which has been enforcing self-regulatory privacy principles since 2011, brought the companies up to spec with industry best practices for opt-out tools and enhanced notice.

Monitoring the websites of major brands

The DAA Principles bring privacy best practices to interest-based advertising (IBA), and the Accountability Program monitors websites across the Internet to ensure companies conform their practices with these Principles. Today’s first case was the result of in-house technical monitoring conducted by the Accountability Program in pursuit of this mission. After identifying that the IHOP and Applebee’s websites did not meet the Principles’ requirement for “enhanced” notice of targeted advertising, the Accountability Program reached out to Dine Brands, the parent company of these restaurant chains, with an inquiry letter.

After receiving the Accountability Program’s letter, Dine Brands rapidly committed to compliance with the Principles, pledging to add a real-time, enhanced notice link to the websites for its brands. The company also committed to updating its notices to include a description of data collection for targeted ads occurring on its brands’ website and a consumer choice tool.

Watching the mobile app marketplace: analyzing apps for privacy issues

Beyond its efforts on the web, the Accountability Program employs a number of technologies to monitor the vast mobile app marketplace for compliance with the DAA Principles. While testing popular mobile apps, the Accountability Program discovered third-parties collecting device identifiers and location data through the weight loss app Lose it!, published by FitNow.

After being contacted by the Accountability Program, FitNow immediately committed to compliance with the Mobile Guidance, the set of the DAA Principles that covers consumer privacy in the mobile app space. FitNow updated its privacy policy to add a disclosure that describes IBA occurring through its mobile apps and provides users with clear instructions on how to opt out. The company also ensured that users would receive enhanced notice of third-party data collection by adding a jump-link at the top of its privacy policy directing visitors to this IBA disclosure. FitNow also disabled the collection of precise location data from its app to ensure that third parties do not accidentally receive this data.

“Today’s cases bring enhanced notice to millions of consumers,” said Jon Brescia, vice president of the Accountability Program. “We sincerely appreciate the eagerness and hard work that these companies showed in making these changes. The quickness with which these companies have updated their practices to give consumers clearer notice and expanded choice once again demonstrates the effectiveness of this historic self-regulation effort.”

Today’s case release brings to 106 the public actions taken by the Accountability Program.