Travel companies silent on the US vs Apple debate, so far
Yesterday,FBI asked a federal judge in California to make Apple write software that will enable it to look at data on an iPhone used by a suspect in the San Bernardino killings.No travel company has come forward to take sides in the debate yet. But as the industry increases its efforts at personalizing customer offers,a day may come when the industry must take a view.
Yesterday the technology industry was in an uproar over a US government request made of Apple relating to the security protections on an iPhone.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asked a federal judge in California to make Apple write software that will enable it to look at data on an iPhone used by a suspect in the San Bernardino killings.
The case is potentially significant for any technology company whose customers’s data privacy relies partly on that company’s security software updates.
The issues at stake are complex. But yesterday Google and Facebook spoke out in support of Apple’s resistance to complying with the FBI’s request. They argued that, among other things, there could be a precedent established giving the authorities the power to demand that tech companies create and insert surveillance software on their systems.
No travel company has come forward to take sides in the debate yet. A sampling of major travel technology companies that Tnooz contacted declined to give a comment on deadline.
Similarly, the Travel Technology Association said it is not engaged on this Apple vs. FBI issue.
In a strict sense, travel companies are at least one step removed from the immediate issues at stake. They are not in the business of making devices that customers store data on, nor of helping customers make it difficult for others to access that data.
Many hotel and airline brands are still struggling to address the challenges of securing private data, as illustrated by a spate of data breaches affecting airlines (examples: United, American), hotel chains (examples: Hilton, Mandarin Oriental), cruise lines (example: Cunard) and OTA platforms (example: Viator).
But as the industry increases its efforts at personalizing customer offers, that will increasingly mean aggregating, storing, and securing data about travelers’ research and travel histories. This data is already subject to standard search warrants, when courts deem it legally justified.
As travel companies develop more sophisticated systems for tracking traveler data, the industry may need to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and what formalized access to data it gives to authorities.
Being quiet today may make sense. But a day may come when the industry must take a view.
Authorities are often especially interested in establishing the travel and travel research of criminal suspects. Compliance above and beyond search warrants could incur non-negligable labor costs to a company. It might also jeopardize customers’ confidence in a company, depending on how it is handled.
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