Travel Sites Ease Privacy Rules on Personal Data

A survey finds that travel sites are bucking the trend seen in most industries by doing less to protect consumer privacy.

When it comes to privacy issues, the online airline/travel industry is moving in the opposite direction from most industries and is using personal data more aggressively than it did just a few months ago, according to a new report from an industry consulting firm.

Excluding privacy, the travel industry is doing quite well in terms of customer service and responsiveness, and thats mostly because its feeling the competitive pressure from travel Web sites such as Travelocity, Orbitz and Expedia, said Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group.

In turn, those Web travel sites have been doing well because of a lack of Web-friendliness that initially had been shown by the airlines and hotels, as well as the fact that travel agents—unlike several years ago—now charge consumers directly, as opposed to solely taking a cut from the airline and hotel fees they book.

/zimages/2/28571.gifE-commerce sites often check out during checkout, according to a recent study of site performance. To read more, click here.

But while those airline and hotel sites are doing better in most areas, they are getting worse when it comes to promising to protect site-visitor privacy, Golesworthy said.

When his company analyzed major travel sites privacy policies in February, 62 percent pledged to not share data at all or to do so only on an opt-in basis. In the new July analysis, only 54 percent of the travel sites made such pledges.

"In pretty much every industry, its going in the opposite direction" and is becoming more consumer-friendly on privacy issues, Golesworthy said.

In the July figures, 7 percent promise to share the data only with others in their company, 19 percent will share it only with key business partners (an airline sharing data with a hotel or a car-rental business, for example), and 15 percent say they share with anyone they feel like.

The Customer Respect Group didnt test whether the travel sites abided by their own policies, but merely asked what they pledged to site visitors.

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