British Airways Borders On Creepy With “Know Me” Google Identity Check

British Airways is using Google Images to develop passenger dossiers for checking people out as they come through the gate. Now that’s what you call customer service.

At least that’s British Airways spin. Privacy advocates have a different take.

According to The Evening Standard, the airline is facing considerable backlash today after it announced a plan to launch a program called “Know Me.” The new intelligence tool uses Google Images to find pictures of passengers for staff to use so they can approach them as they arrive at the terminal or plane.

In many respects, British Airways is doing what they have been told to do. Go to any vendor conference these days and you will hear executives talk about the power of social. A favorite theme: how to draw analysis from customer data, social streams and the Web.

That’s exactly what British Airways is doing. The plan is to collect data from its own systems and that from Google and other sources.

Here’s what Jo Boswell, head of customer analysis at BA had to say:

 “We’re essentially trying to recreate the feeling of recognition you get in a favourite restaurant when you’re welcomed there, but in our case it will be delivered by thousands of staff to millions of customers. This is just the start — the system has a myriad of possibilities for the future.”

Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research said in an interview today that it’s pretty basic.This would all be okay if passengers had some clue about what personal data British Airways planned to use.

“Before you put a program together like KnowMe it’s only right to ask passengers for permission first,” Wang said in an interview today. “Otherwise it’s borderline creepy.”

British Airways maintains it is developing a service that will allow it to offer a new level of personal service. But without trust, there is nothing.

“When companies and brands seek to put new customer experiences together, they have to figure out how their customers wish to be engaged,” Wang said.  “They should also give customers control over what data they want to share and what data the company has on them.  That’s how you build trust. and trust is  the new social currency.”