British Airways “Know Me” Program Uses Technology to Virtually Stalk High-Profile Flyers

SMS Text

british airways know meIn an effort to provide an unprecedented level of customer service for VIP passengers, British Airways has announced a new program that will use Google Images to identify passengers. The airline is providing approximately 2,000 staff members with iPads that can be used to access the customer’s travel itinerary, complaint history, and a photo via Google Images. BA has named the new program “Know Me,” and the airline anticipates that their staff will be able to identify and personally greet 4,500 passengers per day by the end of 2012.

Joe Boswell, British Airways’ head of customer analysis, said the following regarding the new program:

“We’re essentially trying to recreate the feeling of recognition you get in a favorite restaurant when you’re welcomed there, but in our case, it will be delivered by thousands of staff to millions of customers. This is just the start. The system has a myriad of possibilities for the future.”

Although BA leadership is planning to use the new program to help improve customer service, several privacy organizations and news agencies have criticized the airline, claiming that the program inappropriately accesses travelers’ information. Nick Pickles, a privacy advocate, feels the BA program invades consumers’ privacy:

“Fundamentally, British Airways has not asked their passengers’ permission to search Google to find their picture or any other information. This goes to show that major international companies now recognise the best way to find out personal information about its customers is to ask Google.”

BA is not the first airline to be accused of inappropriately using passengers’ online information to “enhance” the flight experience. When KLM announced “Social Seating” last December, privacy advocates suggested the new program was inappropriate and could easily be abused. KLM ultimately made the program optional, and it requires electronic consent from each passenger prior to enrollment.

Do you feel it is a privacy breach for businesses to create electronic dossiers on customers using publicly-available information, or should consumers be ecstatic that at least one airline actually cares about customer service?

Sources Include: Daily Mail & TechCrunch
Image Credit: Shutterstock 

David Angotti

David Angotti

After successfully founding and exiting an educational startup in 2009, I began helping companies with business development, search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO),... Read Full Bio
David Angotti
Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!
  • Luna

    It’s for your own good and benefit. We want to treat you like an A++ enemy of the state. Don’t worry, we still use x-rays and radiation and rifle through your personal belongings. None of that has changed one bit. The only difference is that we record your every move in order to serve you a Mojito even quicker than before because we care about our citizens and are only giving them the best we have to offer. Okay sir if you step outside after you get through the gate we are selling igloos and dinosaur roars for a discount but only for our top customers that get our surveillance services. Would you be purchasing 1 or 2 igloos? And how many dinosaur roars? Okay then. Just remember we are the government and we’re here to help. Make sure you look up a bit when you enter the plane and keep your igloos free from the aisle. End sarcastic rant. Sigh. It’s getting pretty lonely over here in reality land, getting impatient but I’ll always be waiting.

  • Ash Nallawalla

    I don’t think there’s a problem using publicly available information, but the policy has more risks than benefits for BA. Many people share names or are mis-identified in Google Images. Imagine my former Macromedia colleague Steve Wozniak being misidentified on account of the more famous Woz and told that he’s an imposter. (Actually, he used to have no trouble getting a restaurant table in the Bay Area on account of his name.)

  • Becca

    I don’t think the majority of passenger will allow this. High profile people prefer to hide their
    personal life and most of them do not have profile in the internet. Hope this works for them.

  • Keith Horwood

    They can ask to see your passport at any time anyway, as well as airport security knowing who is on the plane. What’s the big deal – remove your images from Google if you are concerned about it?

  • Brendan Irwn

    In my opinion, programs like this offer little in the way of ‘that intimate feeling’ at the end of the day BA are bulk carriers of passengers – no one would expect to be treated as an individual, I suspect this has much more to do with customer profiling and how to expand BA’s business once the information is available to them.

  • David

    I don’t see the problem with this. Since when have we had to ask someone’s permission to Google them?