Last week, I rented a car over the Thanksgiving vacation. I found a pretty good deal on Hotwire and made the reservation online. Imagine my surprise when I happened to login into my account on Facebook today and see a story in my mini-feed mentioning the fact that I rented a car on Hotwire. What a massive invasion of privacy. I did not consent to Hotwire sharing that information with Facebook. I did not consent to Facebook publishing that information.
The Consumerist has a pointed article about it coming right during the Christmas season. As did Binary Freedom.
Ok sure, it's not that significant that my friends know I rented a car. But imagine, any online purchase that you make can appear publicly to all your friends. What if your boyfriend found out what you got him as a gift? Or everyone finds out which movie you just went to see? This is way over the line.
Initially, it appeared that Facebook would offer a global opt-out option. Techcrunch had screenshots several weeks ago showing the option. But that's not what Facebook did. Instead, you have to opt-out for ever single retailer! That's right. This is not opt-in, it's opt-out.
This is the message I sent to Hotwire using their customer service link:
I reserved a rental car last week for Thanksgiving and got a pretty good deal from Hotwire (the itinerary # is attached). However, I will not be using Hotwire for any future reservations, for cars, flight, or anything else. You gave my private information to a 3rd-party, namely facebook. I did NOT consent to that. The fact that I rented a car from you is a private fact, one that I should not have to tell you to keep private. Instead, you sold that information to Facebook as part of their Beacon program. That was wrong.
I'm sure there are numerous alternate websites available for making travel reservations. Next time, I will use one of them instead of Hotwire because you do not respect your customer's privacy.
Moveon.org actually started a petition
I don't use Facebook that often. After this, I may not ever use it again.
Update: Looks like someone else had the same issue. I'm on hold with Hotwire customer service on the phone right now. Hotwire's email reply was rather disingenuous:
I understand your concerns regarding Facebook. While we would like to be able to offer the most specific informtaion regarding them, Facebook is and independent service from Hotwire and all inquiries are handled separately. Please contact a Facebook representative. They will be happy to address any questions or concerns.
Here's my reply:
I beg to differ. You have a business relationship with Facebook in that you exchanged information with them regarding a reservation I made online with Hotwire. You shared/sold information with them about my account that I did not consent to your sharing.
Your privacy FAQ says> Q: Will my email address or personal info be given to third parties? > > A: Absolutely not! All personal information is kept strictly confidential > and is only used for making bookings through Hotwire. Only the personal > information necessary to complete a transaction is passed on to third > parties.
You broke that promise.
If you did not send my information to Facebook, then who did? This is part of their Beacon advertising program, I believe. Does Hotwire not have an advertising relationship with Facebook in that regard?
Update2: Facebook seems to be giving in a little.