A Wall Street Journal investigation has revealed that several Facebook apps including the top 10 Apps have been leaking user information to third party companies, in particular users’ unique Facebook ID, which grants access to the users’ names and names of their friends.
With about 500 million registered users and still growing, Facebook is the biggest social network in the world. And about 70% of its users use apps each month to play games or to customize their own Facebook pages. Considering the huge number of users, leaking sensitive data to advertising companies is a serious issue. Although Facebook announced that they would take care of the problem, this new case of data leakage leaves many internet users skeptical about the safety of social networks and the safety of the internet in general. After all, nobody wants his private data to be traded on the internet.
Although at first glance unrelated to the travel industry, there are two important lessons to be learned from this incident. First it shows that internet security still is an on-going issue and that OTAs and TMCs have to put the utmost effort into protecting their user’s data and making them feel safe while using the internet to book flights.
Secondly, millions of Facebook users already employ travel applications to share their travel experiences or to get the latest information about travel destinations, which demonstrates the chances and risks of Social Networks like Facebook for the travel industry. They can become future sales channels and will definitely be important to gain competitive advantages in the future.
If one extrapolates the trends of the social networks, they could be distribution channels within ten years. Travel providers will soon be trying to market their products via social networks.
But before the travel industry can take full advantage of social networks as an additional marketing and distribution channel, they have to make sure that their clients’ sensitive data such as passport and credit card no. is safe at all times. So one question remains: Will Facebook be able to find a balance between securing their users’ data and providing information for app developers and advertising companies?
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