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The PRIVATE WiFi Blog

News & Features | Feb 17th, 2011

In Plain English: Traveler Favorite Kayak.com Takes Privacy Protections, Online Security Seriously

Elaine Rigoli

Kayak.com, the popular, free travel tool that helps people find and manage their next trip, compares information from hundreds of travel sites at once.

The cool thing about the award-winning Kayak is that it does not require your credit card information and registration is strictly voluntary (though those who register get more in-depth access and insider features).

After the travel search engine scours the web for the best fares and rates (via traditional site and mobile apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry), it redirects travelers to other websites to purchase the trip.

But before you launch a new browser and start planning a flight to Paris, keep in mind that the site is free because it makes money from advertisers. That means that your online habits are counted, weighed, and measured by Big Brother Advertiser.

But that doesn’t mean a site like Kayak is bad. Not at all. In fact, the irreverent yet witty privacy policy from the Kayak team is upfront and honest in stating that your personal information itself is never shared.

But your browsing habits are shared -- how much time you spend reading about Iceland versus India; whether you read reviews on Belize or Borneo; what links catch your attention or inspire you to forward things to friends; and also those things someone in your demographic does not click or check out. All of that is captured via “cookies” and that is the tracking information that gets sold to advertisers.

Kayak’s Privacy Policy

In a refreshing change of pace among corporate privacy policies, the Kayak privacy policy is fairly straightforward and light on legalese jargon.

Unlike other privacy policies found elsewhere on the web, this one actually sounds like a good friend trying to warn about oversharing and other privacy tips.

Here are a few examples:

PII. Kayak collects personally identifiable information (PII) that you provide to us. This includes (at your discretion) your name, email address, password, and certain parts of the travel information you submit when you choose to use the Kayak Trips service.

In Plain English? The site only collects what you choose to share, nothing more, nothing less.

Non-PII. We may also collect certain non PII information (such as destination or site usage behavior) based on your use of Kayak. We may use this information to display advertising that you find interesting and suppress advertising that you might find boring or annoying.

In Plain English? Like nearly every other major website, they participate in online behavioral tracking to sell “site usage behavior” to advertisers. That’s not necessarily all bad, however, as such a move ensures you only see travel deals from your home airport. It also helps them send you targeted email marketing messages.

If the police come knocking. Kayak may disclose to authorized law enforcement personnel the personal data from anyone who poses a threat to our interests. This might include those that are attempting to commit fraud or those who conduct activities that could bring harm to others. We assume that this is not you so please don't worry.

In Plain English? Kayak will share any information they have about you in the event you’re suspected of anything illegal.

You are the boss. Kayak members and site visitors have control over the use of their personal data. Since you are the boss on Kayak, you always can change your account settings in the "My Profile" page on Kayak. How does it feel to be such a big shot?

In Plain English? Kayak encourages you to keep your personal data secure and control your privacy settings.

Protecting your information. Kayak has a sophisticated security program intended to keep the information stored in our systems protected from unauthorized access. We store your information in secure data centers located in the United States. Our systems are configured with data encryption, or scrambling technologies and firewalls constructed to the highest industry standards. We also use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology that protects the data you send over the Internet.

In Plain English? Your data gets extra-special care because they use encrypted, advanced security measures to guard against hackers.

Cookies. When you visit Kayak we may store information about your web session and assign you one or more cookies. Your browser will store these cookies on your computer in a small text file. For example, when you decide to login as a Kayak member, we store encrypted information in your browser so you don't have to login on every page. Kayak does make money by selling advertising as well as referrals from searches on our site. Our third party advertising partners often use a cookie or third party web beacon (a single pixel GIF image) to track when a click becomes a sale (cha ching). No PII is ever sent to these advertising partners.

In Plain English? While Kayak doesn’t reveal your name to advertisers, it totally sells your browsing habits, what you like, what someone in your demographic profile would like, and other behavioral habits that advertisers spend good money to understand.

If you’re worried about any of the above, simply remember that Kayak.com doesn’t really collect anything too intrusive – it doesn’t even collect your credit card number. At the end of the day, it really only collects what you choose to share, nothing more, nothing less.

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