Is Starwood Spying Its Guests on Facebook and LinkedIn – Global Personalization at Starwood?

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Would you feel comfortable if a hotel, where you will have a stay, has a look at your Facebook wall, LinkedIn profile, or does a Google search on you? Don’t be surprised that the hotels are already doing this. Now Starwood, however, is about to take this to entirely new level on their “Global Personalization at Starwood” also known as GPS.

Back in January a FT member Moriens noticed a change on Starwood’s privacy policy. Starwood had deleted the following sentence from its privacy policy:

We endeavor to collect information only with your knowledge and with your permission if necessary.

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Also, if your Facebook or LinkedIn or other social media accounts are public (make them private) they, Starwood, can access them without your consent to “personalize” your stay as an FT member 1Kwoman recently found out. Westin hotel had accessed her LinkedIn profile. She then complained about the practice General Manager of the hotel. The response from the General Manager was eye opening. According to the GM this was:

2.) to provide a “personalized” experience as decreed by Starwood in their “Global Personalization” program. ie, to provide you with a mention of your alma mater, your pets, or what not.

starwood-privacy-1kwoman

I made couple of Google searches using the GPS and Global Personalization at Starwood. There was an interesting piece about this subject on Starwood’s own blog:

GPS will allow us to connect with guests on their own terms, in and outside of their stay. It enables our Associates to anticipate guest needs and deliver tailored experiences at their fingertips.

starwood-privacy-miguel

According to the publicly available material on the internet, Starwood believes that this this GPS (Global Personalization at Starwood) will be the next game changer in hospitality industry.

Also this doesn’t only apply to social networking sites but for sites like FlyerTalk as well. If you interact with Starwood “Lurkers” or representatives on any public message boards, they will link your handle with your Starwood account. Don’t be surprised, if they contact you after you have commented about a hotel or a stay that was less than stellar.

Conclusion

I take my privacy seriously. All the hotel companies, Starwood included, already have enough information about me based on my stay history to personalize the stay. I do not want Starwood or any other hotel company for that matter to start doing searches on my social networks about my personal preferences outside of my hotel stays.

My personal Facebook profile/wall is private. My LinkedIn profile is private from Google searches, but visible if you are logged in LinkedIn user. Quite frankly, I could care less if they know what my Alma matter is, or with which companies I have been associated with in the past.

Of course Starwood is not the only hotel company that does this. I just had a look at my LinkedIn profile, which I haven’t updated for years and there was recently a search done by a member of Conrad hotel where I stayed at.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind if the hotels are doing this after I have given them an explicit permission to do so. Hiding it in the yearly Privacy Policy change is not enough. It is probably true that you do not need a permission to do searches like this for the customers based in the United States where privacy laws are weak, but possibly doing something like this for residents in the European Union could prove to be playing fool with the privacy laws.

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