United is rolling out targeted in-flight ads – what to know and how to opt out

(NEXSTAR) – If you’re flying United the ads you see in the app and on the seat-back screen may soon be a little more … personal.

The airline announced Friday that it will target ads to individual customers who decline to opt out.

United spokeswoman Remy Milburn confirmed to Nexstar that personalized ads are already being served to some United passengers on the airline’s app and nearly 100,000 in-flight screens, with plans to expand over the next several months.

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Milburn added that advertisers aren’t able to access personally identifiable information of customers, and won’t include any data from passengers under the age of 18.

United’s Kinective Media will use customer demographic information that includes their city of residence, flight information and general age group to create “anonymized audience segments,” according to a news release.

“We’ve built a first-of-its-kind, real-time, ad tech-enabled traveler media network where brands have already started connecting to premium audiences at an unmatched scale,” said Richard Nunn, CEO of MileagePlus, in the release. “Unlike some commerce media platforms, United gives brands across a wide range of industries the ability to reach engaged customers throughout the entire marketing funnel – from brand consideration to conversion – in a way that’s highly personalized and relevant, and we’re already seeing impressive results.

How will it work?

While browsing the catalog on the seat-back screen facing you, the ads may not feel as random as they once did.

“For example, a customer who regularly flies between Chicago and Los Angeles might see an advertisement for an event in Los Angeles,” according to Milburn. “Importantly, Kinective Media does not use categories of information like race and ethnic origin, disability, biometric data, and personal health information.”

At the moment, the number of ads that show up on United’s nearly 100,000 in-flight screens is the same, only personalized, Milburn said.

“Airlines and ticket agents regularly collect personal information from passengers in the course of business that may not be otherwise publicly available such as name, date of birth, and frequent flyer number,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). “Mishandling the private information of consumers may be considered an unfair or deceptive practice.”

Practices that could result in a DOT investigation and potential fines include an airline violating its own privacy policy, a DOT rule or the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, among others.

In March, Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that the DOT will be reviewing the top 10 U.S. airlines’ privacy policies to see how well they protect passengers’ personal information and whether or not they are “unfairly or deceptively monetizing” or sharing that data with third parties.

How do I opt out?

If you’d rather not have your data used by marketers seeking to serve you targeted ads, you can opt out.

Customers who wish to do so can request that United stop using their information by filling out this form.

Residents of all 50 states can request to opt out, but United passengers who live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Virginia and Utah live in states with laws that may provide specific, additional privacy protections.

See more information about United’s privacy policy on the airline’s website.

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