British Airways’ Know Me program is the first of its kind in the airline industry. Know Me uses Google images to ID some of its customers, so far it’s the first-class ones, before they even arrive at the airport. The story has started to spread through news outlets with some crying foul over the perceived invasion of privacy.
Customer service agents and cabin crew are equipped with iPads, allowing them to quickly access customers’ flight history, preferences, information, and even photos. Jo Boswell, head of customer analysis at British Airways, said about the Know Me program,
We’re essentially trying to re-create the feeling of recognition you get in a favorite restaurant when you’re welcomed there, but in our case it will be delivered by thousands of staff to millions of customers.
The knee-jerk reaction to this program is that it’s an invasion of customers’ privacy. However, the airlines already obtained a considerable amount of personal information from you when you booked the flight so does being able to preemptively place a name with a face really cross any lines? The real argument isn’t whether it’s invasion of privacy. Instead, Know Me just feels creepy. The difference between this and your favorite restaurant is that you have established a relationship with the staff. With Know Me, the recognition is from people you’ve never met. I can easily see the customer service benefits but it still feels slightly unsettling.