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QR codes are back, and in a big way, propelled like so many technologies by a pandemic that created new needs and new habits.

They are, the New York Times writes, emerging "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."

But the use of QR codes is not just enabling people to access restaurant menus on their smart phones.  It "has also let businesses integrate more tools for tracking, targeting and analytics, raising red flags for privacy experts. That’s because 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 people’s personal information or requires them to input it.

"As a result, QR codes have allowed some restaurants to build a database of their customers’ order histories and contact information. At retail chains, people may soon be confronted by personalized offers and incentives marketed within QR code payment systems."

The Times notes that while QR codes have been common elsewhere  for decades, their use in the US "was hampered by clumsy marketing, a lack of consumer understanding and the hassle of needing a special app to scan the codes," though that changed when "Apple made it possible for the cameras in iPhones to recognize QR codes, spreading the technology more widely."

And then came the pandemic.

KC's View:
  It always has seemed to me that people don't mind if companies are using a technology like QR codes to do a better job of creating targeted marketing programs, as long as the programs are relevant and the efforts are transparent.  That's often where businesses drop the ball - they don't tell people, and then folks get annoyed and feel that they are being manipulated.

There's no excuse for "a lack of consumer understanding," at least not if businesses make explaining the narrative behind these technologies a high priority.