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This Airline Is Mining Your Personal Information to Sell Things to You In Flight. Stop That! | Frommer's Shutterstock

This Airline Is Mining Your Personal Information to Sell Things to You In Flight. Stop That!

Welcome to the spammy skies.

United Airlines has launched a new ad serving platform that will exploit the personal travel information of its customers gathered from bookings, and the use of its app to allow a wide array of companies to peddle their wares to flyers.

The platform is called Kinective. In a chilling, up-is-down and black-is-white statement, a representative of the carrier told industry publication Travel Weekly: "The media network aims to enhance the travel experience by providing a more personalized advertising solution for customers."

Which is just what travelers all want, right?

To hell with seeing iconic sights, eating at great restaurants, or meeting people from other parts of the world. What will really make my travels better are ads tailored just for me. Hooray!

According to a press release put out by the airline on June 7, personalized ads will soon be served on its app (which has 110+ million downloads), as well as on its website, on information boards in airports—and perhaps most invasively, even in United's seatback entertainment systems.

How will that work? Let's say United knows that you regularly fly to Chicago. That might mean on every other flight you take, the ads shown before your inflight movie—or perhaps interrupting the middle of it—could be for games at Wrigley Field, and Windy City hotels.

Meanwhile, the person sitting next to you could be getting ads mostly for London, or perhaps for vegetarian products, if the data mined from that person's meal selections with the airline suggested they'd be in the market for those.

We don't yet know how intrusive these ads will be. The airline claimed, in its overture to advertisers, "There is the potential for 3.5 hours of attention per traveler, based on average flight time."

Oof.

This could also mean that if you go onto the United Airlines app or website to request simple things such as a kosher meal, or a different seat, you may have to wade through personalized ads first to get what should be a simple task done. Or the airline's data could also use those requests to record your religion and marital status and change its interactions with you accordingly.

The system will be launched with a big splash at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (June 17–21)  In its press release, United announced that it is already working with Norwegian Cruise Line, Macy's, Chase United co-branded credit cards, TelevisaUnivision, IHG Hotels & Resorts, and a major advertising agency, so this is coming soon.

I think the question now is: Which other airline will torture its customers in this invasive way next?

And how long before all of the airlines are doing this, too? I give it nine months to a year.

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