Switch to the online arena and that's basically what's happening with Expedia's new PassportAds program, which I described here.
Expedia and others inside and outside the travel industry are selling advertisers data from your Internet cookies, supposedly without any personally identifiable information, so marketers can more-effectively target you when you surf around to major travel and non-travel websites.
When did our online travel buying habits become commodities? Probably quite some time ago, but now major websites, seeking new revenue streams, are accelerating the sale of information about your browsing habits.
While Expedia's program is for ads to be posted on U.S. websites, international advertisers are getting involved in the program, and Expedia is mulling expanding PassportAds internationally.
I don't mean to pick on Expedia. Other major websites are getting into this arena, too. It is a major trend in the advertising industry.
The FTC proposed some guidelines on the behavioral-advertising issue. Among them, the FTC rightfully argues the cookie-sellers should prominently disclose these practices to consumers and not necessarily bury these disclosures within hard-to-fathom privacy policies.
Expedia's partner in the venture, BlueKai, gives consumers the option of managing which of their buying preferences gets shared with advertisers or opting out altogether.
I visited that page, and BlueKai knew, for instance, that I would be traveling in the next 7 to 14 days.
As Expedia and other travel companies engage in bolstering their media programs by selling cookie data, at the very least they should explain their behavioral-advertising business on prime real estate, their home pages, and give unwitting consumers the option of withdrawing from these advertising programs.