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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

British Airways’ Controversial Plan to Google Passengers

Posted by @ 4:39 pm

British Airways has courted privacy concerns this week when it announced it will offer its customers a more tailored and personal greeting experience by gathering information on them beforehand directly from Google.

So, just what kind of information will be available to British Airways? The company has specific knowledge on you already, assuming you have flown with them previously. If you have made a complaint or filed for a lost suitcase then all your information there is available at the click of a mouse for BA. If your flight was delayed for any reason all the customers who experienced these delays will also have information on how long they spent waiting to depart and when. But now the company will be able to search for even more information on you including finding just what you look like via Google Images searches.

BA justifies the controversial plan by comparing it to a restaurant owner who knows you well when you arrive into his diner and is aware of your preferences like which drink you always have when you arrive before your meal. BA now tells us that millions of passenger’s personal and private information will be available to the airline on millions of its customers. It is done so that BA can “recreate a feeling of recognition”.

What is of even more concern is that British Airways proudly announce that this is just the beginning and that more information will added to the “know me” program (yes, that is what the British Airways campaign has called itself) allowing staff to give you a more personal experience going forward.

Privacy advocates are worried that just because you buy an airline ticket you should not have to endure a multi-national company exploring all about your private online searches just so it can simply get to know you better. These advocates want the airline to ask us first what information it wants from us rather than simply go ahead and store data, which most customers will be unaware of.

How do you feel about this move by British Airways? It is just the next step in ensuring a great customer experience or does such thorough research seem a little unnecessary and somewhat creepy? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

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