British Airways faces backlash on passenger ID scheme

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British Airways has been subjected to fierce criticism over its use of passenger data in a new scheme.

The Daily Mail has reported that under the "Know Me" scheme, 2,000 members of airline staff will have access to passenger information - gleaned from Google searches - via an iPad.

As well as accessing standardly-held data - such as travel information and records of any complaints made - staff will be able to use Google Images to search for customer's pictures so that they can spot them when they travel. This information would potentially be relatively easy to access from social networking sites - such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter - that have undergone search engine optimisation.

Head of revenue and customer analysis for the airline, Jo Boswell, stated that British Airways were attempting to replicate the "feeling of recognition you get in a favourite restaurant when you're welcomed there, but in our case it will be delivered by thousands of staff to millions of customers."

However, Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, has argued: "Fundamentally, British Airways have 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 customers is to ask Google," he added.

The Information Commissioner's Office stated that the scheme would need to comply with data protection laws. A spokesman for British Airways said that "Know Me" was compliant with the UK Data Protection Act,  adding that the company "would never breach that."

"'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," he added.

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