Boarding Pass Ads and Privacy Worries

Am I the only one who thinks this whole boarding pass advertising thing is a little creepy? It’s not the concept that bothers me. You want to throw some ads on my boarding pass? Go ahead. It’s the fact that they’re using my demographics to target ads that makes me nervous.

The basic idea is that right now, when you print your boarding pass at home, it’s just a boarding pass. So, American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Airways have now all partnered with a new company called Sojern that will sell ad spots on your boarding pass and mask it by offering weather information. Of course, the spin is that this makes life easier for the traveler. Whatever. I’ve never had trouble clicking on Weather Underground to get my own weather, but if you want to put it on there . . . fine.

None of that bothers me. What bothers me is something that I haven’t really seen talked about. Yes, the company admits that it’s targeting based upon where you’re going, and others have mentioned that. Well duh, that makes sense, and I don’t mind them sharing that information. But, if you click on the sample boarding pass (PDF), it states “Sojern’s new media delivers tailored advertising messages based on travelers’ unique itineraries and demographics.”

Hold on here. How are you getting my demographic information? Is the airline sharing it with you if I’m logged in to an account when I check in? I don’t like that at all.

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