PICK the odd one out. Peaches and cream, boys and girls, football and beer – the web and privacy. If ever a medium had Big Brother implications, it is the Internet.

Now a disturbing trend has apparently emerged where the online travel planning behaviour of consumers is being sold by leading US travel websites to advertisers keen to increase their chances of making a sale.

According to a report in Travolution, Expedia is selling the data (minus “any personally identifiable information”) collected when shoppers browse Expedia.com through its new behavioural advertising program, PassportAds.

Its Partner BlueKai claims many other top travel websites, including a “major” travel search engine, are already quietly doing the same.

Expedia.com is the first to go public.

How does it work?

The simple explanation is that purchasing the data enables advertisers to target their offers to consumers whose data has been traded.

They can hit them with a specific offer when they search across some 200 websites in the Expedia ad network.

You’ve bought an air ticket, how about a hotel or car hire?

Some consumers might think this is good, far more will probably feel it’s an intrusion of privacy as they have not given permission for their travel planning to be sold to the highest bidder.

But it’s a trend that will only grow unless legislators get in on the act, something that is not likely any time soon.

So for now, Big Brother is most definitely out there and is watching you. Creepy thought.

Travel Trends: April 7, 2009

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