Qantas to mine its customers’ search and browser history for $$$

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An Australian newspaper, The Age, reports that airline Qantas has created a search toolbar in partnership with Yahoo!7 which turns internet searches into air miles. There is a catch, though – in exchange for air miles, Qantas sends users’ search queries and browsing history to a US-based marketing company for use in targeted advertising.

There is also a catch to the catch: each “qualifying search” is worth one point, and a maximum of 150 points can be earned this way each month, per traveller.

Since a one-way economy flight from Johannesburg to Durban goes for 10 000 points, a tally that will take 5.55 years to accumulate and the point cost goes up the further away each destination is, this seems like a bit of a raw deal for the airline’s customers, as in the long term, the “rewards” are far outweighed by the privacy concerns involved.

An excerpt from the site’s terms and conditions reads “As part of your use of the Toolbar, Qantas will collect personal information including search and web browsing activity collected through your use of the Toolbar and Yahoo!7 search engine, and may use it for marketing purposes in accordance with the Toolbar Collection Statement and Toolbar Terms and Conditions.”

While Qantas is essentially doing what Google does – collecting search data for sale to third parties – all searches filtered through the Qantas toolbar are not anonymous at all as they require that customers sign into the toolbar using their Frequent Flyer account details first, potentially giving advertisers access to their names, addresses and contact numbers.

Would you be happy to participate in such a “rewards” programme? Let us know in the comments.

Deon du Plessis

Deon du Plessis

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.