Is your Facebook profile enough to prove your ID?


One thing synonymous with air travel is declaring your identity, usually in the form of a passport or citizen ID card, depending on the country and other factors.

In some countries, you can manage just fine with a driving license (a de facto ID document in many places), residency permit for foreigners, or a multitude of means of proving your identity.

But would a social networking profile be an approved method of substantiating your identity? Facebook, for instance?

The Drum reports that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – the US government agency responsible for security at places like airports – has accepted sight of a traveller’s Facebook profile as an approved form of ID.

The news emerged after Twitter user @ZachKlein tweeted his experience on 22 December. […] “Got to the airport, realized I left my ID at home. TSA allowed me to use my Facebook profile instead,” he tweeted.

According to the Drum’s report, the TSA says it will accept identification in lieu of other more traditional forms of ID from “publicly available databases.” And the TSA says this clearly on its website in the page entitled ‘Acceptable IDs‘:

We understand passengers occasionally arrive at the airport without an ID, due to lost items or inadvertently leaving them at home. Not having an ID does not necessarily mean a passenger won’t be allowed to fly. If passengers are willing to provide additional information, we have other means of substantiating someone’s identity, like using publicly available databases.

The web page doesn’t explicitly mention Facebook. But the question does arise – is this a new policy or just an individual decision by a TSA employee at one particular airport in how he or she interpreted the meaning of “publicly available databases”?

Another question is: what does it say about Facebook as a place of supposed privacy if a government agency sees it as a publicly-available database?

The possibility of using a social network profile for an ID purpose like this wouldn’t immediately occur to me. But when I think of it, I wonder: why not? If you set your profile to be visible publicly, doesn’t it qualify it as being on a “publicly available database”?

On the face of it, using digital information like a database of personal information to verify someone’s identity makes a lot of sense. It’s efficient, it doesn’t require you to carry bits of plastic or paper, undoubtedly it’s more cost effective, and more secure.

If you trust the end-to-end process of doing this, then it’s not a big step to imagine such digital information about you being used in many other areas where ID verification is required. Think of international air travel where a passport currently is an essential ID to show no matter what other form of ID you may have.

It’s also not hard to project that thought out to iris scanning or facial recognition as a way to verify ID, where no other form of ID is required. That’s not a new idea at all. Indeed, I remember making use of iris-scan recognition for entry to The Netherlands when I lived in Amsterdam a decade ago – no need to show a passport when arriving (or departing) on an international flight.

But all that’s the logic. The emotional aspect of it is a dark place given the absolute lack of trust many people have with regard to governments and personal information. Just ask Edward Snowden.

Still, if it helps makes air travel (for instance) a simpler, easier, safer and more pleasant experience, I like the idea.

I’d be willing to consider it. Would you?

Klout score takes off with American Airlines


To many people, one of the appealing benefits of a good score on influence ranking services is that you can take advantage of perks – free products, services or experiences offered to you based on how high your rank or score is.

Each of the Big Three such services – Klout, Kred and PeerIndex – has its own perks programme. The company that has it down to a fine marketing art in the US is Klout with its associations with big brands such as Microsoft, Sony, Cirque du Soleil, T-Mobile and, they say, over 300 more.

Now Klout adds American Airlines to its perks roster in a deal that gives Klout users access to nearly 40 worldwide lounge locations including San Francisco, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, and London.

[…] if you have a Klout Score of 55 or higher, you can gain access to the Admirals Club by going to You do not have to be an American Airlines passenger to be eligible for this Perk.

It looks like an appealing benefit, more so I suspect if you don’t travel that frequently and aren’t a member of an airline’s reward programme that gives you access to airline lounges.

But read the small print carefully first – this is actually a sweepstake for US residents only running through May and with the prize being a year’s free membership in AA’s lounge programme, worth $450. And there’s only one winner:

One lucky winner will win an annual membership to the Admirals Club® lounge and enjoy the ultimate oasis in the airport when they travel.

Everyone else who enters gets an opportunity to buy access into the programme at a $50 discount.

Hmm, looks a bit misleading to me in how this perk is being described by Klout.

Still, as an exercise in connecting with existing customers and introducing itself to new ones in an interesting way, American Airlines will very likely gain good exposure across the social web. And for Klout users, well, you do get a benefit if you go ahead and click the blue ‘GO’ button on the AA website, as I did:


If you then complete the registration to get a One-Day Pass good for three months, and tweet that fact, you get an additional sweepstake entry.

Thanks, AA. Not sure how all this will work given I’m not a US resident, but I might stop by the lounge at Heathrow just to check it out!

I quit Klout in 2011 but came back late last year (although you never really can leave) when researching influence programmes for a client assignment. Influence rank is one thing; marketing activity like perks programmes is another. It’s a legitimate practice and very much part of the marketing landscape, whatever I or anyone else may think about it personally, if the separation between both aspects of what Klout and the others offer is crystal clear.

Influence rank such as Klout’s has already made it into areas like recruitment (“Desired skill: Klout score of 35 or higher”) and hotel reservations.

The trick, I think, is the more transparent your offering is, the more you as a brand will benefit from that honesty in building genuine engagement with your customer or influencer.

The devil is in the detail.

(Via AdAge)

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Can Google Hangouts replace press conferences?

The press conference

Faced with the problem of how to reconcile arranging a press conference for a VIP with the lack of a hard news story, independent communications consultancy Keene Communications adopted a different approach, one that might interest you. Guest writer Michael White explains.

This is a story of why we chose to replace a press conference with a Google Hangout On Air and invited bloggers to participate instead of journalists.

The results suggest that these types of events could offer a realistic alternative to press conferences and that bloggers could replace journalists as the primary audience that a PR has to engage with.

Fighting words? Then you decide.

Many PR agencies will recognise this challenge (probably some in house PROs too). The client informs you that a VIP is visiting and has made time to meet some journalists. He’s not intending to announce anything and has no hard news, but is expecting to see a full house!

The pressure’s now on to call in favours, twist arms and jump through hoops. Hours are spent and emotional heat is generated.  Despite all this, chances are that attendance is not as expected; nor is the press cuttings file. The VIP expresses his disappointment with the result that, although heads don’t roll, several cats get kicked.

Sound familiar? Probably because it’s a problem that’s been around as long as the PR industry. But it’s getting bigger. Shrinking editorial teams means journalists don’t have the time to attend content-free press conferences. And if there was content, they don’t have the time to leave their office. At the same time, their circulations are shrinking, so the PR questions whether they should attend anyway.

So our hearts sank when our long term client, Australia’s Tourism Northern Territory (the organisation charged with promoting and developing tourism in the Northern Territory) told us that their newly appointed  Minister for Tourism and Major Events, the Hon. Matt Conlan and Tourism NT’s  CEO, Tony Mayell, would be visiting London and had made time available to meet some journalists. What’s worse, they’d already hosted press events in Singapore and Germany and were looking to do the same in London.

Our problem was that, due to several events taking place at the same time, we knew attendance would be low. So we decided instead to try something new – a Google Hangout On Air event.

We planned for the event to be 100 percent digital with all information shared across NT’s UK social media channels. Invites were to be confirmed using Google Events and media packs were to be made available online only using Google Drive.

Travel bloggers, by definition, travel and Google Hangouts On Air meant bloggers could engage with the event from anywhere in the world – this was live television with a social media twist.

We invited writers and new media creators as well as travel bloggers and collaborated with Travel Bloggers Unite (TBU) so giving us access to its 420+ membership base.

Recognising the need for an experienced facilitator to manage the conversation we engaged Alastair McKenzie. Alastair is a top travel journalist and Webmaster & Vice Chairman of the British Guild of Travel Writers. He also hosts a weekly Google Hangout of his own; Travel Coffee Break.

We partnered with Beyond Content, an agency specialising in content creation, who hired a Central London studio and provided the expertise needed for the visual and sound mixing.

On the 11th March, our Google Hangout On Air was broadcast across YouTube and Google+. Bloggers watched a live video stream and posed questions directly to the Minister and the CEO across Twitter, Google Chat, Google+ and YouTube.

Google+ Hangout on Air
[Pictured, left to right: travel journalist and Webmaster and Vice Chairman of the British Guild of Travel Writers, Alastair McKenzie; Minister for Tourism and Major Events, the Hon. Matt Conlan; Tourism NT’s CEO, Tony Mayell.]
During the event, we received questions every 30 seconds and enjoyed a level of engagement with travel bloggers that would have been lacking had we arranged a press conference.


  • 33 bloggers participated; nine took part in the Google Hangout and a further 24 watched via Twitter.
  • Bloggers were based in five countries, the UK, US, Norway, Sweden and Ireland.
  • The event received 151 mentions on Twitter via the #NTLive hashtag.
  • During the Hangout, Twitter reached a total of 365,557 users (a circulation figure only slightly lower than The Times.
  • Seven bloggers asked to enrol in the NT’s media family programme (21% of the participants).
  • One influential blogger has incorporated the material into his own podcast.

The Hangout lasted for over ninety minutes, so Beyond Content created a ten minute video which we posted on NT’s own YouTube channel (and is embedded below).

We also had a stills photographer John Deehan take shots in the studio whilst the Hangout was taking place. We uploaded a selection to Flickr.

Importantly, the client was delighted and on his return to the Northern Territory, the Minister’s office issued a press release about the event. In it, he said, “We received a terrific response with the Hangout… which forms part of our new digital approach to marketing the Northern Territory 24/7 and was extremely exciting to participate in”.

In my view, the Google Hangout On Air worked better than a press conference for three reasons:

  1. It fulfilled Tourism NT’s Social Media Brief
    Our client ‘went social’ earlier this year, ditching traditional PR for social media. We needed to show the client that we got social media.
  2. We wanted to give back to the blogging community
    We wanted to engage with the blogosphere so bloggers could learn about the NT.
  3. Content is more than copy
    PR is more than written copy; it’s about photography and video. To keep content flowing across different mediums we needed rich content.

Would you agree? Check out the video:

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

Michael White is a Consultant at Keene Communications, a business which has been providing Public Affairs, Public Relations and Representation services for over 25 years. He devises and executes digital and social marketing campaigns, using the latest technology available, providing measurable results. Connect with Michael on Twitter: @michaelwhite1.

How to meet entrepreneurs, gain local insights and avoid accommodation costs


Guest post by entrepreneur Fred Caballero, co-founder,

Entrepreneurs are hard-working, focused people and, many times, they find themselves on a pretty lonely journey.

When my partner and I set up our first company in Dublin in 2008, naturally we had 1,000 more questions than when we started our latest one. While travelling, we thought it would be phenomenal to meet other local entrepreneurs and learn more about “business,” exchange ideas and, of course, get a golden shortcut to insights about their city and culture.

In 2011, after I had moved to London and joined TechHub, I saw internal messages from members in Riga, Latvia, asking if they could to stay at my place, since they were coming to meet investors. That’s when the idea returned!

There are more entrepreneurs now than in any previous time in history and the cost of starting a business is just  a fraction of what it used to be. However, entrepreneurs who travel still need to ensure they meet the right people and make their trip productive, while keeping costs low.

After performing a few experiments, we built to help entrepreneurs travel the world, connect face-to-face with other like-minded entrepreneurs, while sparking new collaborations and business opportunities.


The platform was launched in June 2012 and currently counts with more than 6,000 entrepreneurs in 1,020 cities and 130 countries. We’ve generated hundreds of amazing experiences so far and envision to do this by the millions in the next three to five years.

Even if you don’t travel that much, StartupStay could be very helpful. When members create itineraries, we use that data to send a bi-weekly email to locals announcing their arrival. Knowing what entrepreneurs are coming your way has proven very useful!

The platform is free to join. You may request an invite through or get invited by an existing member. However, if you drop me an email at fred at startupstay dot com, I’ll get you an invite code straight away.

fredcaballeroFred Caballero loves football, travelling, food and starting companies.

He holds a Bachelor in Journalism degree from the E.S.E.D (Argentina), a Certificate in Marketing from the Marketing Institute of Ireland, a Diploma in Internet Marketing by Dublin Business School (Ireland) and a FETAC certificate as a trainer.

Fred has travelled to over 25 countries around the world. He has lived in Argentina, Spain, the United States, Ireland and the UK. He’s been based in London for the past two years.

Fred is an ex-drummer who would love to get back into a band one of these days.

Connect with Fred on LinkedIn and Twitter. Connect with StartupStay on Facebook and Twitter.

Delight your customers, don’t just please them


Some interesting shifts in thinking are getting underway in the travel industry, according to AdAge, with British Airways in the forefront of looking at how they’re using technology in customer service and what they need to do to help their employees deliver outstanding service.

AdAge says that the airline is analysing the passenger data it gathers to gain actionable insights into making its customers’ experience more convenient and rich with value to them, presenting service-personalization to passengers in a way that impresses them.

Simon Talling-Smith, BA’s executive VP-Americas, paints a great picture of an ideal scenario and the real difficulty of execution:

[…] He said that on a flight in which the crew is aware that a passenger is flying business class for the first time, staff would welcome the customer, show her how to use her seat and then note how she reacted. In another scenario, the staff could identify a traveler who normally flies business but is on a personal vacation with his family in coach. The flight staff would thank him for flying with BA, maybe offer him a glass of champagne and make a fuss over him in front of his family, which always wins points.

[…] The introduction of onboard iPads has made sending such passenger-specific communication to in-flight personnel easier. But he noted that getting the staff to make use of the tablets is still a challenge. “Probably half of the messages don’t even get delivered,” he said.

Having the tech in place is one aspect of your jigsaw; another is enabling employees to understand and confidently use the tech tools and processes to deliver the service that you’re aiming to delight your customers with. Employee education, training and communication play big roles but not the only ones – employees have to see and believe that what they do in their customer interactions are meaningful to everyone (not just the customers), are genuine (not just a marketing gimmick) and, so, authentic.

It’s not a tall order if your leadership approach with your employees matches those attributes.

aagalaxyBritish Airways isn’t the only airline experimenting with tablets as tools that are planned to form part of an end-to-end customer service system based on understanding more about customer experiences – American Airlines is as well, as Pocket Lint reports, with Samsung Galaxy Notes rather than Apple’s iPads:

[…] “Flight attendants will use the Galaxy Note to record customer meal and beverage preferences, access customer information and identify high-value customers or customers requiring special assistance,” explains Samsung to Pocket-lint on the news. “Essentially, American Airlines has chosen the Galaxy Note to modernise their inflight services and better serve their passengers.”

The idea is that eventually the device will be used to take your order, or show the cabin crew you’ve just come from a long connecting flight.

[…] “Our flight attendants will have the most up-to-date customer information in the palms of their hands, allowing them to better serve our customers from boarding to deplaning,” said Lauri Curtis, American’s vice-president, flight service. “By giving a device to all of our active flight attendants we are better enabling our people to deliver an exceptional customer experience.”

I imagine American will have similar issues to resolve just as BA does.

And I wonder how further tech developments will fit into airlines’ customer service thinking  such as Boeing planes that are totally wired, as it were, for enabling in-flight mobile phone calls, on track for delivery in 2013.

A delight for some passengers, a horror to others – and everyone, including the airlines, want to be delighted…

Related post:

QR codes at heart of lost-and-found service


A topic I’ve written about frequently here is QR codes, those square, random-looking black-and-white images that are meaningless to the eye but content-rich to a cameraphone and some barcode-scanning software.

These little barcodes are popping up everywhere these days, and how they’re being used by marketers attracts praise and derision in almost equal measure.

Given my glass-half-full approach to such matters, I love discovering imaginative uses of these powerful little tools.And here’s an interesting one – QR codes as an integral element of a new service describing itself as “the next generation global lost-and-found service.”

Finnish/US startup Belongs launched its service in beta last month. What it does is simple as its launch announcement says:

[…] Order free tag stickers from the website (, claim them online and stick them to your valuables. When your item gets lost, the finder can scan the tag’s QR code with their smartphone or access the web address on the tag. The owner is automatically notified, and anonymous chat is established between the two parties to arrange the return of the lost item. To further incentivize the returning of valuables, Belongs supports setting rewards for found items through PayPal, and the Belongs technology will streamline the transfer of the reward from owner to finder.

The service is free for individuals – there is a paid service for businesses – so I signed up and ordered some free tag stickers, which arrived in the post from the US a few days ago.

Setting up an item with a tag and sticker is simplicity itself. What you do is use one of the QR code stickers for a valuable (a netbook computer, for instance), go to the Belongs website via your computer or mobile device and describe that item in your Belongs account, and stick the rectangular sticker to the item. The stickers are quite small, about one inch by half an inch (about 25mm x 13mm).

The image at top shows one I did, stuck to a netbook just beneath the sticker with the Windows product information. If you scan the QR code – a unique one for each of your valuables – with your smartphone or go to the web address shown on the sticker, you’ll get a description page about the valuable with information on what to do next.

You can offer a reward if your item does get lost and someone finds it and makes contact with Belongs via the QR code sticker, which I did; setting that up via PayPal is also a simple procedure.

So you have your stuff tagged and stickered and you venture out on your travels with confidence! Belongs says its job is to “encourage good deeds” where basic honesty will prevail when someone finds your valuable that you’ve lost.

They describe such altruism thus:

    • Enabling you to tag your items with our high quality personalized tag stickers
    • Letting you offer a reward for your item
    • Making it possible for finders to receive a reward for the good deed
    • Offering full anonymity for everybody
    • Offering our services internationally and multilingually
    • Making it as easy and trustworthy as possible
    • Giving tags for free for the people

I’d like to think the same although I also have a pragmatic view where if you do lose your netbook, iPhone, iPad, camera or whatever it might be, file an insurance claim rather than only wait for a Good Samaritan to get in touch with Belongs.

I’ve been wondering where the monetization for Belongs lies, and clearly that must be primarily in the paid service for businesses that enters into the realm of enterprise asset management. For individuals and small businesses, the free service would be fine (and you can donate to Belongs if you wish to, which I did).

Time will tell how successful Belongs will be (and how honest people are), But I love the idea and imagination behind the use of QR codes in this way.