After a Wall Street Journal report this week indicated how travel software company Orbitz often displays more expensive hotel options in search results for Mac users than for PC users, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take a closer look at the issue of digital privacy.
Orbitz is an online travel search engine where users can get quotes from mulitple companies.
In Reed’s letter to FTC chairman Jon D. Leibowitz he said,
The article described a practice that some online travel agencies are apparently using to direct consumers to different search results based on whether they are using Mac or PC computers, including directing Mac users to costlier travel options.
This practice could put some consumers who are looking for travel deals at a disadvantage, while also raising broader concerns about the use of consumer data for marketing purposes.
Reed, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, says that while there do not appear to be many regulations regarding online companies tailoring search results for Mac users, the practice raises important privacy concerns and could discourage e-commerce if consumers feel they are being manipulated or unfairly directed to higher prices. Or, if the practice is widespread, it could discourage people from using certain operating systems to shop online.
The Wall Street Journal notes: “The sort of targeting undertaken by Orbitz is likely to become more commonplace as online retailers scramble to identify new ways in which people’s browsing data can be used to boost online sales.”
Do you think the the FTC should introduce online shopping regulations to ensure all shoppers receive the same deal?