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QR Codes Are Here to Stay. So Is the Tracking They Allow.


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Accessing a digital menu through QR code technology.

QR codes can store digital information such as when, where, and how often a scan occurs. They can also open an app or a Website that then tracks peoples personal information, or requires them to input it.

Credit: Ulysses Ortega/The New York Times

When people enter Teeth, a bar in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood, the bouncer gives them options. They can order food and drinks at the bar, he says, or they can order via a QR code.

Each table at Teeth has a card emblazoned with the code, a pixelated black-and-white square. Customers simply scan it with their phone camera to open a website for the online menu. Then they can input their credit card information to pay, all without touching a paper menu or interacting with a server.

A scene like this was a rarity 18 months ago, but not anymore. "In 13 years of bar ownership in San Francisco, I've never seen a sea change like this that brought the majority of customers into a new behavior so quickly," said Ben Bleiman, Teeth's owner.

QR codes — essentially a kind of bar code that allows transactions to be touchless — have emerged as a permanent tech fixture from the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants have adopted them en masse, retailers including CVS and Foot Locker have added them to checkout registers, and marketers have splashed them all over retail packaging, direct mail, billboards and TV advertisements.

From The New York Times
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