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UK's British Airways to Google Passengers Prior to Flight

By - Source: London Evening Standard | B 29 comments

British Airways is using new tactics to improve customer service.

UK airline British Airways has made waves with new plans to Google passengers so it can greet them upon arrival for their flight. Dubbed "Know Me," the scheme is supposed to provide passengers with a more personal experience when travelling with the airline. London's Evening Standard writes that British Airways staff will use Google images to find pictures of passengers so they can approach them as they arrive at the terminal or plane. "Know Me" will also check data held by the airline to determine if you've had problems on one of your previous flights (such as delays) so that the crew can apologise to you when they see you.

While some people appreciate the gesture (after all, British Airways is merely calling upon publicly available information to improve the quality of your experience with them), some aren't happy with the creepy factor. The Evening Standard cites Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, as saying customers shouldn't have to deal with their airline snooping around for information about them on the internet.

"Since when has buying a flight ticket meant giving your airline permission to start hunting for information about you on the internet?," he's quoted as saying. "If British Airways want more information about us they can ask us for it, rather than ignoring people’s privacy and storing data without us having any idea what data they are storing."

However, British Airways says it is 'entirely compliant' with the UK's data protection act and that it's merely trying to improve customer service. "Know Me is simply another tool to enable us to offer good customer service, similar to the recognition that high street loyalty scheme members expect." BA said the Google Images search app will help the company recognise high profile travellers. In an earlier statement, BA said it was aiming to recreate the same recognition you might get when returning to your favourite restaurant.

How would you feel about an airline gathering this kind of information on you? Are you okay with, since it's publicly available, or do you think that it's a bit creepy, regardless of that fact? Let us know in the comments below.

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Top Comments
  • 24 Hide
    bin1127 , July 10, 2012 2:13 PM
    I guess I should stop posting my bomb plots on facebook now.
  • 17 Hide
    amigafan , July 10, 2012 3:06 PM
    Clerk: Welcome to your flight mr. John, seats for you and the young lady who is obviously not your wife are ready sir!
    mr. John: er... thanks
    Clerk: Sit back, relax and congratulations on your garbage collector of the month award.
    Young lady: hey, you told me you are the managing director at Bestofmedia Group!
Other Comments
  • 9 Hide
    mrmaia , July 10, 2012 2:08 PM
    Or they could pay Facebook/Google itself and "Know" pretty much everything about their passengers' lives. And don't forget the ads. :D 
  • 24 Hide
    bin1127 , July 10, 2012 2:13 PM
    I guess I should stop posting my bomb plots on facebook now.
  • 16 Hide
    back_by_demand , July 10, 2012 2:14 PM
    British Airways - I just checked the Facebook page for this guy in first class called Jamal, it says "Rockin' the Jihad like an OT (original terrorist!), wordup LOL!!!"
    Booking Agent - Yeah, cancel his ticket and say we double booked by accident
  • 4 Hide
    eddieroolz , July 10, 2012 2:30 PM
    Either don't leak your information online, or lodge a complain with Google to remove all queries relating to yourself, or just don't fly with British Airways if creeped out.

  • 2 Hide
    bobusboy , July 10, 2012 2:36 PM
    I don't see the point of this; it just seems like an invasive monitoring program designed to catalog a persons movements and interests by a private corporation in lieu of the government doing it (or in addition to I suppose.)

    The UK is a seriously messed up place in some ways.
  • 17 Hide
    amigafan , July 10, 2012 3:06 PM
    Clerk: Welcome to your flight mr. John, seats for you and the young lady who is obviously not your wife are ready sir!
    mr. John: er... thanks
    Clerk: Sit back, relax and congratulations on your garbage collector of the month award.
    Young lady: hey, you told me you are the managing director at Bestofmedia Group!
  • 8 Hide
    TeraMedia , July 10, 2012 3:21 PM
    I think this is absolutely wonderful. I also think that upon check-in, the airline should present each passenger with a CV and Google-dossier for each crew member, as well as the same for each ticket agent, gate agent, baggage handler, etc. that interacted with that customer. That way, each passenger will be able to really know who the BA employees they interact with are. Why make it so one-sided? And for that matter, why stop there? The BA employees who market on TV, create and authorize billboards, set pricing, and heck even run the company should all give their customers a chance to know them. After all, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

    It's all or nothing. If BA isn't happy to share this level of information, they should not expect their customers to be happy about it.

    I pity someone like Salmon Rushdie - but less well-known - who writes a book that some segment of the population finds offensive. A single airline employee can easily make someone's life hell for several days. And can make it look like there was little recourse. The only thing BA passengers have going for them in this is that there are simply too many of them for the employees to get to know all of them at any level of detail.
  • 5 Hide
    greenrider02 , July 10, 2012 3:22 PM
    What's the problem? They don't need your permission. It's not an invasion of privacy if it's publicly available information. If you don't want the information to be public... well, that's on you.
  • 5 Hide
    house70 , July 10, 2012 3:38 PM
    greenrider02What's the problem? They don't need your permission. It's not an invasion of privacy if it's publicly available information. If you don't want the information to be public... well, that's on you.

    That. I am all for keeping info private, but once you posted it online... it's not private anymore.
    Would have been a problem if they started breaking into people's personal accounts... But not like this.
  • 3 Hide
    back_by_demand , July 10, 2012 3:39 PM
    greenrider02What's the problem? They don't need your permission. It's not an invasion of privacy if it's publicly available information. If you don't want the information to be public... well, that's on you.

    Google knows everything about you, if you wear womens underwear, if you like dog-porn, if you like anchovies - you sick wierdo
  • 4 Hide
    TeraMedia , July 10, 2012 4:07 PM
    The problem is simply this: each employee you interact with has an unfair advantage / opportunity to know who you are in advance, but you don't have a similar opportunity to know who they are. AND, that additional information might be used unfairly to surreptitiously discriminate against you - potentially without any grounds, and certainly without any opportunity for self-defense.

    Yes, the information is public. But the fact that a chunk of public information is linked to a particular passenger boarding a plane is NOT public. The opportunity for abuse is just way too great. Let your imagination run wild, and you can bet that something even worse than you imagined will happen at some point.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , July 10, 2012 4:36 PM
    TeraMedia hit the nail on the head, IMO. I completely subscribe to the notion that information you post online is not private, but there are a plethora of other issues with this. Not all information about you on the internet was put there with your permission, and you may not even be aware of it.

    The information may be public, and the employees can already Google you if they want (at least whoever books your ticket can), but this pretty much gives nameless employees the company-approved go-ahead to start snooping, harassing, stalking, or whatever the hell else they want to do.

    Like many TH readers, I'm sure, I'm sensitive about my privacy and aware of the implications my personal actions can have on it. I, however, do not feel it is ethical for any company to give its employees approval to Google my wife all they want so that they can "greet" and "compliment" her when she arrives at the airport.

    Call me paranoid, but I've spent enough of my lifetime on the internet to know there are sick and twisted individuals out there who will abuse any service they can for their own personal gain.
  • 0 Hide
    AntiZig , July 10, 2012 4:46 PM
    all the people with non-english names get ready to have to explain to every BA employee on how to pronounce your name
  • 2 Hide
    mrmaia , July 10, 2012 5:10 PM
    People defending this system with the argument of "what you post online is public after all" forget that not only you post about yourself on the Internet. Companies also do the same without your permission - type your own name on Google and see how much stuff you haven't even thought of posting pops up.
  • 2 Hide
    mrmaia , July 10, 2012 5:12 PM
    Also don't forget that other people can share your exact full name.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , July 10, 2012 5:34 PM
    Hmm, I better start posting stories of how I like to party around with female flight attendants, etc. so they will treat this old ugly fart like a King...
  • 0 Hide
    boiler1990 , July 10, 2012 5:35 PM
    mrmaiaPeople defending this system with the argument of "what you post online is public after all" forget that not only you post about yourself on the Internet. Companies also do the same without your permission - type your own name on Google and see how much stuff you haven't even thought of posting pops up.

    Most of us posting that are aware of that. Hopefully those who aren't aware begin to realize that the internet isn't really even a walled garden; it's just a big grassy field with some mountains that already existed on all sides, and everybody is romping in the fields. Don't be afraid of the internet, but don't be careless either.
  • 1 Hide
    dkant1n , July 10, 2012 5:57 PM
    The staff will only have the passanger name and his picture plus some other relevant data like if he has to apologyze for something or is a frequent traveller. Only a few will do all the searching and they don't interact with passangers, just grab a public picture.
  • 1 Hide
    freggo , July 10, 2012 6:14 PM
    Welcome back Mr. Smith; thank you for flying British Airways again with your wife Sus...oh, sorry... lover Melinda today :-)


  • 1 Hide
    thecolorblue , July 10, 2012 6:18 PM
    Just how exactly do they expect to get passenger pictures?
    Just how exactly are those pictures supposed to be useful as 300 people swarm onto the plane?

    Perhaps at check-in they will ask you to verify google search results & images as belonging to you so that they can file that away into their database.

    Zero value for the customer.
    Now ask yourself what value massive databases on their customers will have for British Airways
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