A prominent digital privacy campaign group on Thursday filed a complaint against Ryanair in Spain, alleging the popular budget carrier was pushing customers to undergo an “invasive facial recognition process”.
Austria’s noyb (None Of Your Business) said the Irish airline — Europe’s largest by passenger numbers — required some customers to go though “a mandatory ‘verification process’ involving invasive facial recognition”.
This applied to bookings through an online travel agent rather than directly on the company’s website or app.
“There is no reasonable justification for Ryanair to implement this system. Instead, it seems like the airline is willingly violating their customer’s right to data protection in order to obtain an unfair competitive advantage over alternative booking channels,” the group said in a statement.
Ryanair said in a statement emailed to AFP that it was seeking “to protect customers”.
“Online travel agents scrape Ryanair’s inventory and in many cases miss-sell our flights and ancillary services with hidden mark-ups and provide incorrect customer contact information/ payment details,” the airline said.
The verification process is “to ensure that they (as the passenger) make the necessary security declarations and are informed directly of all safety and regulatory protocols required when travelling”.
Noyb said the complaint came from a customer from Spain who booked a Ryanair flight through the Barcelona-based online travel agency eDreams and then received an email from Ryanair requesting her to complete a “verification process”.
The case was filed with the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD).
Noyb said Ryanair “didn’t provide comprehensible information about the purpose of this intrusive process” which requires the client’s consent under the EU’s data protection regulation (GDPR).
Ryanair said its processes were “fully compliant with all GDPR regulations”.
On its website, Ryanair says customers’ identity may need to be verified when a booking is made “by a third-party travel agent that has no commercial agreement with Ryanair to sell our flights”.
It details two ways of doing the verification process online — the “express” version uses facial recognition technology by Ryanair partner GetID and costs 0.59 euro cents.
A third option is going directly to an airport check-in desk before the flight, where Ryanair’s check-in fee applies.
Vienna-based noyb is handling hundreds of complaints in various jurisdictions on behalf of internet users over data protection and rights concerns.
It has won several cases against some of the world’s largest multinationals.
(Source: Insider Paper)