Flight booking app wants to introduce you to other passengers but netizens are outraged
Umetrip’s “virtual cabin” lets you see information about other passengers and talk to them in the app
Airline cabins may not be a place where people want to socialize, but one Chinese app wants to change that -- and is being accused of violating privacy in the process.
A new social function on Umetrip, a popular flight booking app operated by state-owned aviation company TravelSky, allows users to click on seats and see basic information about passengers, like where they’re from, their star sign, and even a heat map of other places they travel to. Users can then send a private message or start a group chat with fellow passengers.
Not surprisingly, people are outraged. It came to light after an aviation blog posted an article on WeChat, and has been picked up by tech sites and even state media -- all blasting Umetrip for invading the privacy of passengers.
The company defended the function in a response, saying their “virtual cabin” was designed to let passengers help each other -- for example, when someone wants to switch seats.
It argues that users can edit information presented on their personal pages to present only the things they want to share, or even turn off profiles completely. But critics point out that it’s enabled by default, and users may not be aware that it’s being shared.
In response, the company just announced another update: The function is now off by default.