Selfie-free Zone: Protecting Privacy in Airports

Magog the Ogre/CC BY 3.0

If you’re planning to fly anywhere this summer, get ready for the next invasion of privacy: social media.

One would think that allowing an airport X-ray security worker to giggle at one’s very middle-aged naked body would be invasion enough. Retweeting my selfie-with-a-12-Euro-soft-drink to 35,000 airline ‘friends’ seems a bit much. The repercussions could be merely embarrassing, at best, to downright dangerous to one’s job, at worst. Most frequent travellers and tech junkies download airline apps to make checking in, getting gate notifications and flight information easier (and save the airline money). One of the easiest ways to do this it by electronically signing in at airport lounges, which often provide free Wi-Fi. Gotcha!

G’day, Big Brother

The Australian airline Quantas now monitors any social media that occurs within its lounge areas, ‘likes’ suitable content and resends the data to its own platform, i.e., thousands of your fellow travellers. The monitoring works even if you’re using your own internet service provider. Better rethink those candid snaps of the management team at the bar.

One doesn’t have to go to Oz to deal with airline internet wizardry. British Airlines employs a program with the creepy name ‘Know Me’ for upper-tier flyers that adds meal preferences, recent complaints and VIP image recognition to itineraries. American Airlines has quietly added a tracking device to its app in major airports to guide travellers to the right gate, remind them that the plane is leaving, better hurry, or NO! That’s the Men’s room!

Free Wifi: you get what you pay for

Airlines maintain that everything they do is legal, as social media offers no guarantee of privacy.

How does one beat the system? Turn off your GPS. Disable and log out of any social media that tells other people where you are. Get rid of the airport apps. Regarding flight information, use the overhead monitors. And if you must send anything over the internet, pretend that your mum and your boss will read it first.