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British Airways program upsets privacy groups

July 08, 2012|By Hugo Martin
  • A British Airways program has upset privacy advocates.
A British Airways program has upset privacy advocates. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images…)

A British Airways effort to improve customer service by letting airline employees look up passenger photos and other information on the Internet is ruffling feathers among privacy advocates.

Over the past year, British Airways equipped airline employees with Ipad devices to search passenger data such as previous travel arrangements, food preferences and even Google images. The London-based airline says the “Know Me” program was directed primarily to better serve VIP passengers.

The online images, for example, were used to help crew members recognize passengers as they board the planes, making the service more personal, according to British Airways officials.

“We’re essentially trying to re-create 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,” Joe Boswell, a spokesman for British Airways, told a London newspaper.

Privacy advocates weren’t buying it.

“Since when has buying a flight ticket meant giving your airline permission to start hunting for information about you on the Internet?” asked Nick Pickles, director of the London-based privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch.

No word yet if British Airways plans to modify the program to address the privacy concerns.

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