Travel Tech

British Airways uses Google image search to spot frequent fliers

BA will use the image search feature to identify high profile passengers to allow staff to greet customers by name.

British Airways (BA) is taking a leaf out of the book of the sitcom Cheers by attempting to become the airline where everybody knows your name.

This week BA launched Know Me, a computer system that allows airport ground staff and cabin crew to find pictures of passengers online so they can immediately recognise them.

The airline will only use the image search feature to identify "high profile" passengers whose image is readily available online such as CEOs of large companies, a BA spokesman said. However if the BA scheme is a sign of things to come, and given the easy availability of social network profile photos, it may only be a matter of time before it becomes the norm for staff to recognise customers as you walk through the door.

The BA system retrieves possible photos of passengers from Google Image Search, which are then matched to a passenger profile held by BA. Staff access the passenger profile via an iPad app. The system is being used with passengers who are members of BA's Executive Club.

Each profile is built using passenger flight and complaints history and information from their Executive Club profile, where passengers can highlight the likes of seating and meal preferences.

Know Me is designed to offer passengers a personalised service, for example allowing cabin crew to provide additional information to someone they know is flying business class for the first time.

A spokesman for BA said that the Know Me relies on data from BA's computer systems and what is publicly available through Google Image Search, so shouldn't raise any privacy concerns, despite a few raised eyebrows from privacy campaigners.

It's not the first time that an airline has scoured the net for interesting info on its passengers, in 2010 the Dutch airline KLM monitored tweets of passengers stuck at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam after an Icelandic ash cloud grounded planes, for example taking water to passengers who tweeted they were thirsty.

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

10 comments
wlad24
wlad24

Well, this is just sick&spooky. Who needs that kind of service? I dont think that anyone should be monitored 24/7 no matter how good reason might be.

pgit
pgit

Some day a critical mass will wake up to the fact that 1984, Brave New World, THX 1138 and the like are not fiction, but blueprint/wish lists for the global elite. This is more beta testing of a facet of the total command and control grid. Your ipad is another big component. In conjunction with facebook the lemmings are paying for their own stampede.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Wouldn't it be a bit more logical if BA would first get some type of approval before doing so. Even then ask BA travellers before hand if they want this service. If the travellers say no, the people at the desk will never see any information of the travellers and all records from the time the picture was taken until the desk will be wiped. It would be as if they were a new BA client.

davechilds_2000
davechilds_2000

Just look at their passports and address them accordingly. No need to waste thousands doing that.

mrjohnpro2
mrjohnpro2

I can't even get a thank you most of the time . Jp

dtrnelson
dtrnelson

This is ~such~ a Seinfeld episode: the ~very latest coo-coo technology recognizes Kramer as the Prince of Wales... Or the Queen.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Google Photo Search is being used by Journalists to bypass Legal Requirements to Hide the Identity of people who other journalists have said they would protect or are awaiting Court Proceedings for crimes that they are accursed of. Even a Heavily Pixilated Picture can be dropped into Google Photo Search and come up with most peoples Name and whatever other details that have appeared online. If those same people are members of sites like FB and have posted photos of themselves for their fiends they have just made their Identity publicly available. Last week here a Whistle Blower Informant had their Photo printed in a Newspaper heavily Pixilated and it took all of 3 seconds to identify them through a Photo Search Engine no where near as powerful as what Google is offering. So obviously Children and Whistle Blowers need to understand that now there is [b]No Such Thing as Privacy.[/b] BA's action is so trivial in comparison but at the same time also a perfect example of why it should be stopped. Hack the CCTV Systems in any public place and you can get to know who almost everyone is and where they live. ;) Col

mattohare
mattohare

Some of these want to be recognised. They'll put out good pictures just to ensure they are. I have a big ego, but not big enough to assume that SAS or Aer Lingus will put any effort into working out who I am when I board. As for KLM keeping passengers watered that express on public twitter that they're thirsty, good on them. How many times have we felt ignored or misunderstood by some company or shop? Here are a few that make an effort. Only the odd privacy nut would be upset by this, I think.

Gisabun
Gisabun

But that's why they charge too much for a ticket!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

this is pretty useless. I'd rather have a larger bag of peanuts.

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