BA in privacy row

The Daily Mail has reported that British Airways has faced a backlash after announcing plans to use Google images in order to identify passengers.

The airline has said it wants to provide a more personal touch to its service by using the “Know Me” programme which will send messages with information about specific customers to the iPads of customer service agents and senior cabin crew, or update check in staff via the airline’s computer system.  The airline aims to send 4,500 of these personal messages a day by the end of 2012.

BA also aim to search individuals’ data held by the airline, including if a regular traveller has experienced problems on previous flights, such as delays, so that crew are primed to apologise.

Surely if BA want more information about us they can simply ask for it?

The announcement from BA comes on the same day that the Home Affairs Committee has released a report highlighting the growth in availability of personal information and the dangers it presents.

It is clear that the Information Commissioner’s Office needs to defend explicit consent from customers and punish those who obtain data without consent.  The current fine for those found to have unlawfully obtained, disclosed and sold personal data is currently, on average, only £100; clearly not nearly an effective enough deterrent.  Until jail sentences can be handed out to those who deliberately obtain sensitive information that they are not entitled to, the public cannot be sure that their privacy is adequately protected.

Posted by on Jul 6, 2012 in Home | 10 Comments


  1. Chris
    6th July 2012

    BA are not acting improperly; merely using information from previous transactions with their customers supplemented by publicly available information such as published photos.

    If you don’t want to be recognised, don’t put your photo on the Web.

    If BA were able to buy information on journeys their customers made on other carriers, that would be a violation of the DPA.

    • Pro
      6th July 2012

      Taking pictures of BA staff, and matching it with public available photos to identify them is also fine. Would allow for a personal touch next time I fly, to greet them by their Facebook name.

      • Pro
        6th July 2012

        Chris, why don’t you share your full name, allowing this conversation to have a more personal touch.

        • Chris
          6th July 2012

          I would if we had some sort of relationship.

          I agree with what you posted about identifying BA staff. It has to work both ways. Doesn’t sound like you agreed with me, though. Could you elaborate?

  2. Pro
    6th July 2012

    Assuming BA is fine with me to Google images in order to identify flight attendance, pilots, cooks, customer service agents, senior cabin crew, check in staff and managers. Could lead to a very personal experience. Gladly BA will send these names and details to all passengers before their flight.

  3. British Airways to use Google Images to help identify passengers | Digital Trends
    6th July 2012

    […] fearsNot everyone thinks it’s such a good idea though, and the director of privacy campaigners Big Brother Watch said “surely if BA want more information about us they can simply ask for it,” and added in a […]

  4. gnasher
    6th July 2012

    Principle 2 of the eight principles of the data protection act says – The data must be processed for limited purposes and not further processed in a manner which is incompatible with those purposes.

    If this applied to me and it doesn’t because I don’t fly BA then I would not consent to it. Data provided to an airline is for the purpose it was given for and not so BA can go on an internet trawl for more data about their passengers. This is not a personal service. It is more like online stalking. There is a lot of information on the web that may have been uploaded by others and not by the person themselves so it is not so straight forward as saying if it is already there etc. If companies want information about us they should ask and if we say no they should accept that as our right to refuse. There is far too much abuse of personal data and it is very creepy. People processing personal data don’t have a clue about their obligations and responsibilities about it, a lot of the time. But then WHY can companies like Experian collect and sell highly sensitive data about us without as much as ‘by your leave”? It is all wrong, all so very wrong.

  5. British Airways Criticized Over Plan to Google Passengers |
    7th July 2012

    […] of British polite liberties and remoteness organisation Big Brother Watch, wrote in a Friday blog post.Carr called on a U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office to support stricter penalties […]

  6. “Know Me”: British Airways googelt nach Bildern von Passagieren – für die “persönliche” Begrüßung | Basic Thinking
    9th July 2012

    […] zu ihnen aufbauen will? Vielleicht. Für Nick Pickles von der britischen Datenschutzvereinigung “Big Brother Watch” hat die Initiative allerdings den gleichen Stellenwert wie der Liebesbrief eines Stalkers. Sie […]

  7. Privacy concerns over British Airways' plan to Google passengers |
    17th July 2014

    […] “Surely if BA want[s] more information about us they can simply ask for it?” Emma Carr, deputy director of civil liberties and privacy group Big Brother Watch, wrote in a blog post. […]