British Airways met with some controversy when it announced a new personalized service approach on Thursday. Privacy advocates were appalled with the company’s plans, as the new feature (called “Know Me”) would have staffers conducting Google Image searches on customers. According to airline representatives, the tactic would allow employees to address passengers individually upon arrival. But that’s not the only purpose — the pics would also be entered into passenger files for use as ongoing identification information.
In truth, it’s not all that shocking that airlines would keep files on their passengers, given the security climate of today’s transportation industry. And it’s not as though the company is digging around for confidential or private data; it’s merely conducting Google searches for images that are widely available on the Internet. Still, critics call foul that the company would proactively research people like this without their express consent.
Then there’s the spin-doctoring. Touting this as a customer service enhancement is just flat-out odd. And even if this really is the primary intent, it might be misguided anyway. As much as people like personalized service, the prospect of people they’ve never met identifying and approaching them can be unsettling for some folks.
What’s your take on this? Is this a great idea that will allow British Airways to offer a more personal touch to travel-weary passengers? Or is this an inappropriate breach of customer trust?