Yelp reveals personal info of users to businesses, and many are unaware

yelp bug bounty program

Even Yelp users who’ve been using the crowd sourced-reviews platform for a while may not be aware of a little-known Yelp feature that shares their personal information with businesses. According to Fusion, this change that Yelp refused to announce in a big way dates back to approximately two years ago. Yelp quietly mentioned this update in a low-key blog post in late 2013.

It wasn’t even until last year when a few Yelp users began to notice that their details were being shared with businesses. However, businesses have had the luxury of being able to track user behavior since 2013 by watching their activity feeds, which give them details of who’s looking for their business on the site.

Here’s how it works: Every time a person logs into his or her Yelp account, info is now shared with a business each time the user clicks on its Yelp page; calls it; or looks for directions for it.

And here’s what the business can see about a user, by default: age, gender, and hometown.

Of course, Yelp lets users show more or less of this information to businesses. The issue is that many Yelp users don’t yet know about this feature, even though it’s two years old, which could raise privacy concerns for some.

From Yelp’s standpoint, there’s no problem since users are free to determine how much or how little information they want to share with businesses when they use the site. Further, at most, the information businesses receive about users searching for them is the same information that Yelp users would’ve shared with Yelp when they first signed up at the site. Whether those users are comfortable with Yelp also sharing this information with third-party businesses is another story, though.

Fusion reviewed a Yelp message board devoted to this privacy issue, and users were divided on it, with some expressing disgust and others indifference at Yelp.