In a recent post I highlighted a discussion in which travelers discussed a case in which a man posed as a TSA agent at the San Francisco International Airport – and he wasn’t caught until after he “screened” two female travelers.
Now lets turn this around. How would you prove you are who you claim to be if someone were to question you?
In the age of the internet this has become a particularly vexing problem. I remember back in the early 2000’s when I worked at Frequent Flyer Services on an infant community called FlyerTalk, we used to have deep discussions about the nature of online identity, and how we as managers of a travel community could try to prevent people from opening up “fake” accounts. We saw it as a potential risk that people might lie about who they were online and post mis-leading, or even harmful, advice.
Seriously, these were topics we really worried about – worried about a lot in fact – back then.
Of course, over time it pretty much worked itself out without our intervention – or in some cases despite our misguided interventions. People developed online friendships and trust. Some began to meet offline. Others did lie and mis-represent, but those who did typically hadn’t created any friends in the community who were trusted and could vouch for them and so they were eventually weeded out for the most part.
Now, however, we have entered a new age. An age of peer-to-peer commerce, where people offer their automobiles and extra rooms for sale to other people whom they have never met and with whom they haven’t developed any type of relationship or trust, online of off.
Again I ask you, how do you prove you are who you say you are, say, when you want to book a room on Airbnb?
Among the ways Airbnb is trying to solve this problem is by saying, essentially, ‘if you participate in a bunch of social media channels and they all look legit, you probably are who you say you are’.
But what about travelers who aren’t into social media and/or who don’t particularly want to share their social lives with Airbnb?
I am wondering if it really is true that you can’t book through Airbnb unless you have a lot of your personal info publicly available on social media. If so, that really annoys and concerns me. I know that I am not typical in today’s world, but I prefer to keep my personal information personal and private. ~Roz
In reply to Roz, several travelers posting in this thread offer anecdotal evidence that not everyone is required to provide in-depth social media background info before booking. Based on the trend of the discussion though, it seems like most who aren’t asked to provide the info are long-time members who joined and used the service prior to this practice being implemented:
The only verification required in 2012 when I used Airbnb for the first time was my telephone number and an email address. The credit card was not requested until I made the booking. ~Doru
Wow. I didn’t realize that AirBnB had changed that much. … I do not think I would deal with them again ~DMae
I’m confident this too will pass as the world adjusts to yet another transition from the offline to online world of relationships and commerce. And in the interim some will fall victim to the confusing nature of it all and post information online that they really shouldn’t (you wouldn’t believe how many CC numbers and SSN we removed on behalf of too trusting members back in the early 2000’s).
I booked a room in 2 places with AirBnB last month for the first time. I provided them my phone # and email address which they verified. Instead of my Facebook acct, I gave them my LinkedIn account which was not a problem with me since it’s professional info that’s readily available online. They also verified me by asking questions with answers that can be found in public records such as my previous addresses.
After I was verified, I was able to see info that my hosts posted of themselves. i was rather surprised that one actually gave her passport number for verification. ~flennie
Read the thread in its entirety: Booking through AirBnB