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Airlines should not base prices on personal info gathered by ‘big brother’ tech, Sen. Schumer says

"This is 'Big Brother' meets 'Big Business' and it is a frightening combo," the senator said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for an

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for an FCC investigation into reports that airlines are using personal information to offer varying ticket prices. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Win McNamee

Sen. Chuck Schumer wants the federal government to protect passengers from technology that uses personal information to affect pricing — technology he said is being mulled by airlines.

Schumer said Sunday he sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission to investigate reports of a pricing policy that would charge different rates based on private profiles compiled by data firms.

Under the policy, two flyers sitting next to each other could be given two different ticket prices based on their internet browsing history, their online purchasing history or even their income level, according to the senator.

“This is ‘Big Brother’ meets ‘Big Business’ and it is a frightening combo for already price badgered airline travelers,” he said in a statement.

Schumer said the proposed technology tracks customers’ IP addresses and predicts how much they are willing to spend on a ticket. The senator couldn’t identify any specific airline that is considering the technology, but noted that a cloud software company called PROS indicated that some companies have begun to implement the policy.

“The thought that they or others within the travel industry are looking to nickel and dime consumers based on their mobile phone or computer’s browser history is a sad state of affairs that just might violate consumer protections,” Schumer said.

A representative for PROS didn’t immediately return a message for comment.

In his letter to acting FTC chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen, the senator said it’s time to begin looking into reports of this online tracking being conducted by the airlines and other companies.

“Your ticket price to fly shouldn’t take off because of who you are, and so the FTC must investigate these profit maximization tactics enabled by the technology in general and set new guidelines to protect consumers from personalized price gouging and invasions of privacy from data miners,” Schumer said in a statement.

A representative for the FTC didn’t immediately return a message for comment.


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