BA faces privacy backlash over ‘Know Me’ Google image search

British Airways is facing criticism after unveiling plans to launch a programme called “Know Me.”

Privacy campaigners hit out after the airline revealed plans to use the internet to create “dossiers” on passengers, the London Evening Standard reported.

The intelligence tool uses Google Images to find pictures of passengers for staff to use so they can approach them as they arrive at the terminal or aircraft.

Airline staff will also search individual 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.

BA maintains it is developing a service that will allow it to offer a new level of personal service.

The plan is to collect data from its own systems, from Google and other sources.

BA head of customer analysis Jo Boswell said: “We’re essentially trying to recreate 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.

“This is just the start — the system has a myriad of possibilities for the future.”

BA said the airline plans to send 4,500 personal recognition messages a day by the end of 2012

But Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, told the Evening Standard: “Since when has buying a flight ticket meant giving your airline permission to start hunting for information about you on the internet?

“If British Airways want more information about us they can ask us for it, rather than ignoring people’s privacy and storing data without us having any idea what data they are storing.”

The BA spokesman responded: “We are entirely compliant with the UK data protection act and 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.

“The Google Images search app helps our customer service team to recognise high profile travellers such as captains of industry who would be using our first class facilities enabling us to give a more personalised service.”

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