British Airways flies into privacy debate, uses Google Images to profile passengers

6 Jul 2012

With a title reminiscent of a show featuring Alan Partridge, ‘Know Me’, a new programme being used by British Airways staff that uses Google Images to identify first-class passengers at the airport ostensibly to give an intimate, friendly touch, has prompted a privacy backlash.

In a display of tact that only Partridge would envy, ‘Know Me’ instead appears to have the potential of creeping passengers out and has raised the hackles of privacy watchdogs.

To give a personal touch, the ‘Know Me’ programme uses Google Images to find pictures of passengers so staff can recognise them as they enter the airport terminal or step onto the plane.

However, following recent debacles such as the kerfuffle over reality TV star Kim Kardashian’s luggage being rifled through and a scandal whereby Virgin Atlantic staff are alleged to have tipped off paparazzi agencies with celebrities’ flight details, ‘Don’t Know Me Please’ would be a better approach.

According to UK privacy group Big Brother Watch, the airline aims to send messages with information about specific customers to the iPads of customer agents and senior cabin grew.

The airline aims to send 4,500 of these personal messages a day by the end of 2012.

BA also aims to search individuals’ data held by the airline, such as if regular passengers experienced problems like delays on previous flights that crews are primed to apologise.

“Surely if BA want more information about us they can simply ask for it?” Big Brother Watch railed.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years