By Patricia Alonso, CMO at Hotelmize
Over the last year, the tech revolution has accelerated within the travel industry. Some of the innovations are either designed to help directly with COVID-related issues like crossing the border, measuring temperature, etc, or to optimize processes and reduce waiting times.
On the other hand, the travel industry took this market “shut down” to improve its services and invest in new tech to be used post-corona. However, there is an ongoing debate within the industry about the data we share every time we travel and how this data is used. Travelers are aware of the risk of sharing too much information but do they really know how to avoid these risks?
The use of personal data has raised security and privacy concerns. One example is the former Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who posted a photo of his Qantas Airlines boarding pass on his Instagram account, only to see a hacker scan the coding and obtain the ex-PM’s passport number.
Big data has exploded, and its goal is to provide personalization and improved user experience. Naturally, people are worried about their privacy and how their personal data is used. Here’s what you need to know.
1. A balance between privacy and convenience
A lot of travelers love personalization and being understood. The fact that hotels know what kind of rooms they like or airlines understand whether to get them a window seat or not is something that lots of people appreciate.
Customers love when brands anticipate their needs and execute to perfection. In turn, they reward these brands with their loyalty. Still, not everyone is convinced that this is the ideal solution. Lots of people are having second thoughts about this excellent service. Why?
Simply because there is a fine line between giving personalized services using data and invading someone’s privacy. An even more challenging aspect is that everyone individually defines what’s valuable and what invades privacy. In general, younger people are more open to using these services, but they also want to know how their data is used.
2. It’s not that harmless
Everyone likes booking a plane ticket with a single tap on their phone. It’s simple, easy, and convenient. Various chatbots, rental, airline, and hotel databases are all helpful for the overall booking and travel experience. However, it’s important to know that these technologies mine user data for a variety of actions.
Is it really that bad, though? One of the examples of services mining your information is when you search for accommodation. After you’ve done that, you might get a variety of ads and feed suggestion accommodation, places to visit around that location, food options, and so on.
Social media apps especially expose personal data and sell it to third parties for ad targeting and data modeling. With this information, companies can predict and model pricing, timing, and demand. All that leads to more affordable and accurate services that travelers are looking for.
3. Travelers can prevent access to their data
If you don’t want to be tracked on social media and let various services gather your data, there’s a good solution. It doesn’t mean you should stop using personalized services altogether – if you are bothered by targeted ads, you can do a couple of things:
3.1. Organize your apps
Keep only those apps that you really need. Make sure to revoke third-party permissions to apps like Google and Facebook. Also, if you can, do not let your apps have access to your contacts and location info. Keep your location off as much as you can.
3.2. Delete cookies
Cookies are small packages of data that are sent to users when they visit sites. This data is then stored in the browser. A cookie can contain your login information, payment options, and other travel-related data that can improve your experience.
They can also track your activity on the site and the number of visits. Luckily, there are countless free tools you can use for free to clean out cookies in a matter of seconds. Do this periodically, and you won’t be bothered or tracked.
3.3. Delete browsing data
Your browser works together with social networks and Google to learn about you and understand your behavior and preferences. Clearing your browsing history removes site settings, cached data, passwords, download history, and search history.
All this information is used to show you ads, track you online, create personalized offers, and so much more. You can delete browsing data on any browser easily and not have to deal with this.
3.4. Passwords and lock screens all your devices
You need to ensure that all your lock screens and accounts are protected with a secure and unique password. You can uninstall or log out from all your financial apps before you go on a trip. Of course, all your software should have the latest updates and security patches.
3.5. Use private mode
If you don’t want to get any personalized service or give away any data, there is a quick fix – browse the web in private mode. With this approach, websites won’t gather any information, track you, or generate cookies.
When you use private mode to browse the web, all your sessions will be private. None of the temporary browsing data will be retained or saved by the browser later to be used by online services. Some browsers also have private modes that let you hide your location and prevent any kind of tracking.
3.6. Use a VPN
Facial scans and ads are a nuisance that some people might not like, but they have a purpose and greatly help improve travelers’ experience and give more personalization. Much bigger threats to these new travel technologies are stolen identities, credit card information thefts, or hacked bank accounts.
Through various techniques like phishing, malware, or sniffing, cybercriminals can steal important data. With a single password, they can get access to all of your accounts, especially when you have cookies and rich browsing data.
That’s not only an issue in the travel industry but for all online users. It generally happens because people use unsecured Wi-Fi networks to perform vital tasks, including booking flights, reservations, and so on. The best way to protect yourself from this is to use a reliable virtual private network.
4. It’s not only about travel tech
Yes, new technologies used in the travel industry do have some liabilities, but they are far more secure and private than some services that people use regularly. For example, social media gathers far more personal information and tracks its users.
On top of that, these platforms sell all the data to third parties that may use it for some pretty shady reasons. We only need to remind ourselves of scandals like Cambridge Analytica and some others. Users have options as well.
By adopting the correct digital habits, everyone can reduce their digital footprint. Revoking access to third parties and services like tracking location, access to contacts, data, and so on can help a lot in preventing any issues with personal data.
Big data isn’t the problem – it’s poor control and misuse that create issues. Sadly, this is a complex system, and companies often can’t see the liabilities. That’s why users also need to have the proper practices to enjoy personalization while securing their privacy.