It's safe to assume that if you own a Mac, you also own a Bentley and a mansion. Well, that's what Orbitz.com assumes.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, travel agency Orbitz highlighted costlier hotels to users who visited the site using a Mac.
The company had been doing research into the spending habits of customers, and discovered that Mac users were 40 per cent more likely to buy rooms at four and five star hotels. So the travel site decided to personalise Mac user search results so Apple fans would see classier accommodation options.
Of course, consumers were up in arms because nobody likes to spend more money. Users assumed they were being manipulated based on their their brand preference and got upset. However, Orbitz did its best to soothe fears by explaining that personalised results show up in a separate window to regular search results.
The company said that the Mac specific hotel options only showed up in a special area called "Recommended for you" and users still got to see the cheap stuff in the normal search window. Orbitz even pointed out that users can opt out and show results by price.
So while Orbitz did nothing legally wrong; morally it's a little vague. Some research does suggest that Mac users make more money. According to Forrester Research, the average household income of Mac owners is $98,560, while PC users only make $74,452. So in a vacuum Orbitz was right about Mac users being more financially soluble.
But we don't live in a vacuum and to say a person spends more because they own a different computer is just plain silly. Plus, to use consumer information to push assumed preferences is something neither Mac nor PC users have shown much appetite for.
The real problem is why are users sharing all that data with corporations anyway? As Facebook and Google harvest data to no real consequence, its ridiculous to be mad at Orbitz for doing something that's becoming common practice.
Options exist to prevent websites from collecting personal data through cookies, but why are they even allowed to do that anyway?
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