As Google faces legal action in the UK, experts at EyeforTravel’s Amsterdam conference last week believe more companies may fall foul of the rules

Travel firms believe that more and more firms will face privacy infringement fines, after the announcement that Google faces a class action in the UK for allegedly snooping on iPhone users.

Richard Lloyd, a former director of consumer group Which?, is leading a collective lawsuit alleging that Google illegally bypassed default privacy settings on Apple phones and tracked the behaviour of people using the Safari internet browser in 2011 and 2012.

According to the Financial Times, Google has already paid millions of dollars in the US over a “Safari security bypass”.

The news, which broke on Day 2 of of EyeforTravel’s Amsterdam co-located data and digital strategies conferences last week, did not go unnoticed. In the Q&A session following the morning ‘machine vs humanity’ keynote addresses, moderator Paul Richer, a senior partner for Genesys Consulting, had this question: “Is that the kind of thing that we might find becoming more common as more and more technology rolls out with the humans behind the technology trying to find an edge?”

In response, Joerg Esser, a senior partner for consultancy firm Roland Berger and former Thomas Cook director, said: “I would expect that this will be more common. We will see some discussion between, on the one hand privacy challenges, and the on other the added value that data brings. There seems to be a rule of thumb that about half of people surveyed are willing to sign up for automation, for chatbots and for releasing personal data, if there’s a clear added value. But there will be tension between the privacy challenges and added benefits.”

There will be tension between the privacy challenges and added benefits

Earlier in the morning in his opening keynote presentation, Jonathan Moore, chief product officer at Trainline, had outlined how being relevant could make customers more likely to share data. He cited the example of Trainline’s BusyBot, which asks customers to report how busy trains are and uses the hundreds of thousands of data points to make predictions for any service on any route.

What Trainline discovered, was that customers were happy to do the work for the firm in building a dataset if there was clear benefit. “We see 150,000 unique inputs every week into this feature,” he said. “There’s a real selflessness in this number – there’s no reason to interact with this feature unless you make someone else’s life a bit better on another day.”

In responding to Richer’s question on the Google action, however, Moore, pointed to how people’s attitude towards the sharing of data was changing: “Generationally there are going to be extraordinary differences in how happy we are to share data – I might be the last generation to have a strong negative personal opinion. The generation that follows feels fundamentally different. It will be interesting to see how legislation copes with that.”

It certainly will and in Europe, for sure, travel firms are going to need to be more careful with customer data given the introduction of the new European General Data Protection Regulation rules next year. As Eurail CEO Brenda van Leeuwen pointed out on Day 1 customers absolutely have the right to be protected. To this end, Eurail is reviewing its internal processes to ensure that customers are given plenty of opportunity to opt in or opt out.

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