The travel industry needs to marry the demands of regulators in handling personal data while continuing to make online products more customer-friendly, the Travolution Summit heard.
Christoph Klenner, secretary general of the European Technology and Travel Services Association (Ettsa), said: “Big corporations use a lot of personal data.
“It’s convenient when you’re in a hurry and a site has pre-filled all your data rather than it not having your details and you have to enter them all again. That is great.
“But regulators are concerned about the huge amounts of data companies possess and about what happens to that data.
“For example, global distribution systems (GDSs) have a lot of data that is valuable to third parties, particularly airlines.
“It’s a question of how we help companies make products more consumer friendly, but consumers feel comfortable and the data is not abused.”
Mark Lenahan, vice-president of product strategy at technology supplier OpenJaw, said: “I don’t think that is contradictory. For example, recommendations are not controversial, but a lot of data underlies them.
“Consumers have to trust you with the data. Amazon does a good job of making visible the data it’s holding. Facebook allows you to collate your data and download it.
“The amount of data Facebook holds might scare you, but you have control.”
He compared the personalisation of recommended purchases to organising a shop window.
Lenahan said: “It is arranging the front window for you. It’s like the fruit at the front of Tesco. You know the chocolate biscuits are on aisle 5. It’s just the shop window.”
Klenner said Ettsa was seeking Europe-wide harmonisation on data-protection rules. He said: “We are encouraging member states to implement similar rules.
“At the moment, everyone is going off on their own implementing the cookie directive. We advocate the same level of harmonisation on cookies as on data protection generally.”