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Delta Is Being Accused of Sneakily Tricking People Into Booking Much Worse Seats Than They Think
September 3, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

When I book flights, I try to be patient.

Perhaps like many people, I go to Kayak or Google Flights, and hope to find everything that’s available. 

Then, I might wait a few days to see if prices go up or down, depending on the urgency of my booking.

It’s like playing with your cat, really. Most of the time, Tibkins is quicker. Just occasionally, though, you get him. 

The accusation was that Delta Air Lines made ordinary Economy Class flights appear as if they were Premium Economy when booked via Google Flights.

Or, as the Points-Saving God puts it: “Delta displays economy prices for Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy, and at no point during booking does it actually specifically tell you you’ve got the wrong deal.”

In essence, if you go through the Google Flights search process, wanting to book, say, return flights from London to LAX, you get what seems like a wonderful deal.

If you book via Delta’s site rather than its partner Virgin Atlantic’s, that is.

The price difference is more than $ 1,000. Which is clearly the very definition of a steal.

Because you like saving money and feelings clever, you click on that deal and still believe you’re booking Premium Economy.

It’s just that, if you look closely, it has a novel and delightful name: Economy Delight.

This is actually Virgin’s fancy name for something that’s slightly better than so-called Economy Classic, but is still very much Economy Class and not the wider seats and more pleasant experience of Premium Economy.

Which Virgin calls, oddly, Premium Economy.

For all you know, however, Economy Delight is what Delta calls Premium Economy.

There are so many names these days.

And nowhere, said God Save The Points, is it clear that it isn’t. After all, why are you being shown this option when you searched for Premium Economy fares?

I asked Delta for its view.

An airline spokeswoman told me: 

Delta recognizes the limitations of some current shopping experience on third-party sites may not be ideal. That’s why we are leading industry collaboration to ensure customers have access to all of Delta’s products, no matter where they shop.

Ah, so it’s Google Flights’ fault?

Delta seems to think so. Its spokeswoman continued: 

It’s time for third-party displays, including Google Flights, to invest in the technology necessary to display the various products available so customers can view all their options clearly, just as Delta has done for customers on delta.com. 

An airline mocking Google’s technology? That resembles entertainment.

So I asked the Silicon Valley company for its reaction and will update, should I hear.

I remained perplexed. If Virgin Atlantic’s fares are accurately depicted, why aren’t Delta’s?

I was so moved by all this that I tried the search for myself.

I got very similar results to God Save The Points. 

Not exactly close.

I clicked through to Delta’s site and there it was, the Economy Delight designation.

Only if I scrolled down would I see that an upgrade to Premium Economy would cost an additional $ 257.75 each way.

This all feels a touch unhealthy. 

Delta says it’s the champion of the people, but airlines aren’t always so keen to play with third-party sites, where many people go to make comparisons.

Risibly, the airlines’ lobbying group claims this is all intended to increase, please wait for it, transparency.

It might even, say the comparison sites’ lobbyists, threaten the ability of fare comparison sites to operate.

Worse, the airlines seem to believe that third-party sites should deliver all the detailed information that airlines have, yet those same airlines refuse, in some cases, to give those sites that very information.

Which all should make emptors do a lot of caveating.

And we thought technology is going to make things easier. 

Easier for corporations, perhaps.

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Woman dies in Arizona after being hit by Uber self-driving car
March 19, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A woman died of her injuries after being struck by a Uber self-driving vehicle in Arizona, police said on Monday, and the ride hailing company said it had suspended its autonomous vehicle program across the United States and Canada.

FILE PHOTO: Uber’s logo is pictured at its office in Tokyo, Japan, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The accident in Tempe, Arizona, marked the first fatality from a self-driving vehicle, which are still being tested around the globe, and could derail efforts to fast-track the introduction of the new technology in the United States.

FILE PHOTO: A fleet of Uber’s Ford Fusion self driving cars are shown during a demonstration of self-driving automotive technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. September 13, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk/File Photo

At the time of the accident, which occurred overnight Sunday to Monday, the car was in autonomous mode with a vehicle operator behind the wheel, Tempe police said.

“The vehicle was traveling northbound … when a female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck by the Uber vehicle,” police said in a statement.

A spokesman for Uber Technologies Inc said the company was suspending its North American tests. In a tweet, Uber expressed its condolences and said the company was fully cooperating with authorities.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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Former Drake University basketball coach claims she was forced out for being gay
January 10, 2017 2:00 am|Comments (0)

Courtney Graham says she was pushed out six months after head coach Jennie Baranczyk learned of her sexuality, which violates state anti-discrimination laws. Drake University denies the allegations, claiming a state panel already rejected Graham’s accusations.

Source: http://www.thefrisky.com/2016-12-29/former-drake-university-basketball-coach-claims-she-was-forced-out-for-being-gay/

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Space Photos of the Week: Dying Star Insists on Being Dramatic About It
October 16, 2016 2:17 am|Comments (0)

Space Photos of the Week: Dying Star Insists on Being Dramatic About It

Space photos of the week, September 18 — 24, 2016. The post Space Photos of the Week: Dying Star Insists on Being Dramatic About It appeared first on WIRED.
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Mom discovered twin daughters’ bedroom being streamed via Live Camera Viewer app
August 14, 2016 5:35 pm|Comments (0)

If you were considering potential vacation locations, then the Android app Live Camera Viewer for IP Cams is purportedly “for travelers to have a spy sneak peek at travel destinations.” Yet children’s bedrooms would never occur to me as a travel destination. A heartsick mom in Texas found out her kids’ bedrooms were being live-streamed via the app.

ABC News recounted a story which started with a mom and son duo from Oregon; they had been surfing satellite images of Earth. The Oregon mom found the Live Camera Viewer app while looking for more satellite feeds. That’s when she saw a broadcast from Houston, Texas, of a little girl’s bedroom.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


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Is your data being used against you?
March 13, 2016 8:45 pm|Comments (0)

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We’ve had several decades of platforms and apps collecting data about us – and in a heavyweight panel on Sunday at SXSW, the debate turned to how that data is being used to both make assumptions about us and alter the products and services we’re offered.

In the introduction, Ashkan Soldani referenced IBM’s development of software that was designed to ascertain whether individuals arriving into Europe from Syria were terrorists or refugees. Using multiple data sources the software creates a ‘terrorist score’ which determines the likelihood that someone is involved in terrorism activity.

And while the motivation behind this kind of tool is understandable, the potential for misuse or mistakes is clear.

data ethics

Nicole Wong, former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer for the Obama administration, introduced the concept of negative selection algorithms, citing the case of a major university in the U.S. that changed its procedures for recruitment to its highly regarded computer science degree when it became clear the initial screening process had inadvertently discriminated against women.

Other examples of how data is (deliberately and unknowingly) changing both the content we see online and the products were offered includes Facebook’s patent on judging financial worthiness based on your social graph and a study that showed that women were less likely to be shown Google ads for the highest paying jobs.

All the panelists acknowledged the huge challenges of addressing these kinds of issues and the lack of a definitive answer to solving them. Legislation would likely prove to be ineffectual, since the landscape is changing so rapidly, we certainly don’t even know the full picture of what we need to legislate against.

Companies could work harder to examine their systems and processes but sometimes seemingly benign processes can be causing problems without an organization even being aware of it. The panelists agreed that including data ethics as a mandatory subject within computer science courses was vital.

Even these measures are unlikely to completely solve the problems, but we have to start making a more concerted effort to push harder to try and address them. Oftentimes, the impact of data-driven decisions on our lives is hidden, and the resulting danger is that we don’t see it as a pressing problem.

As journalist and author Julia Angwin said:

“You might not know why you didn’t get that job, you may never know that it was data that discriminated against you. “

It is clear that we have reached a pivotal point in society – one where we have to collectively consider what we want the future of data collection and use to look like. We must take the time to understand the enormous potential impact of data on our lives.

Follow our coverage of SXSW 2016 here


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