Since Covid, QR Codes have become popular, especially as a “no-touch” tool to view a restaurant menu using a cell phone. Sometimes you can even order and pay using your cell phone. Although this New York Times article doesn’t outright suggest that using QR codes is risky or dangerous or a threat to your online privacy, it doesn’t do much to explain how a QR Code works, leading many readers to assume that the QR Code is some sinister new technology that will steal their identity, or worse.
Reader reactions to the article were just off-the-charts, paranoid-whacko. I tried to help out with this soothing comment:
“QR codes save you typing in a URL to get to a web page. As suggested by others here, any “damage” to privacy etc., results from the security threats already present on web sites and the internet. If this idea drives you to action, then get off Facebook and Amazon, both of which do far more damage than a restaurant web page.”Christopher Plummer, Reader Comment, on article “QR Codes Are Here to Stay”, NYT, 7/26/2021
By this evening, there were almost 300 more comments about the article, mostly paranoid-whacko comparisons to the dystopias of Huxley and Orwell and horrified exclamations of former customers who swear they’ll never go to a restaurant again…and so on.
America, calm down! There are plenty of reasons to #AvoidtheInternet, but QR Codes used by restaurants are not one of them. If you use the simple camera connection in your phone or tablet that recognizes a QR Code, it:
- Translates the text that the “code” represents
- Recognizes that text as a URL (the kind you would type in your web browser)
- Passes that URL to your browser
- And opens your browser to that specific web page
That’s all that is happening! QR Codes can contain other information—addresses, phone numbers—but if all you’re doing is reading the code with the camera on your device (and NOT using a 3rd party QR app), then the not-sinister QR Code is saving you some keystrokes to get you to a web site. THAT’S ALL.
As I imply, once you get to the web site in question, your security and privacy is entirely up to you, and contains the same risks as any other commerce web site that may use trackers, cookies, spy pixels, profiling, blah, blah, blah, all the reasons you have to be smart and consider that you might want to #AvoidTheInternet, #DeleteFacebook, and so on. But please, don’t blame the QR Code.
This code takes you to a photograph I took.
Be Careful Out there! 🙂