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Orbitz Caught Displaying Higher Prices for Mac Users -- Why?

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Since late Monday night, the news has been buzzing over the travel-booking site Orbitz allegedly treating its Mac and PC users differently. Essentially, the site was posting pricier hotels in a personalized section for Mac users because, as the Wall Street Journal reported, they were more likely to seek out hotels that were more expensive.

Orbitz confirmed this practice with the Wall Street Journal, making sure to note that it offers the same price for the same hotels to both PC and Mac users. USA Today more specifically reports that this customization based on computer preference really only applies to the optional "Recommendations for you" module on the website.

Watch this CNN report for more clarification on the story:

Still, many were upset over this revelation, and the WSJ reported that this sort of targeting is becoming more common place for retailers. In a separate post, the WSJ blog reports several reactions ranging from customer threats to withdrawal business to privacy concerns.

The Los Angeles Times reported Standford Law School privacy expert Ryan Calo saying the "fact that people are creeped out by this is legitimate, and itself registers as a privacy harm." It notes Calo saying that in a situation like this where people feel they are being manipulated could lead them to stop using the site.

Ed Bott for ZNET suggests, for reasons such as this, that "privacy settings should be on by default, and that the companies we do business with should be required to establish a business relationship and ask permission before they target you." He goes on to write that companies "should also be required to disclose when their display of information is based in whole or in part on data they’ve collected using tracking tools."

Still, others think this "manipulation," if you will, based on computer preference and other data collected on users to optimize experiences is smart business. Here's what WSJ's original article had to say:

Apple users already stand out as big spenders. Nearly half of retailers in a recent study by Forrester Research and Shop.org said users of tablets—a large majority of which are iPads—tend to place bigger online orders than users of laptops or desktops. Shoppers on Apple devices like iPhones also outspend shoppers using Android or BlackBerry devices, accounting for half of all mobile purchases, according to International Business Machines, which tracks data from retailers.

Fashion site Rue La La pays close attention to iPhone and iPad users, who account for 75% of all of its mobile orders, said CEO Ben Fischman.

Companies are just starting to look at whether users of Macs, who make up just 9.8% of the U.S. personal -computer market, according to market research firm Gartner, might exhibit similar characteristics.

Many consider this targeting a basic marketing tactic. Here are are a few of those comments posted on WSJ's Facebook:

 

USA Today also reported the Dean of New York University's School of Continuing and Professional studies, Bjorn Hanson, saying data mining practices such as this have "been in existence for decades." He said now there is just an awareness of the use of data collection in business strategies.

Are you concerned, annoyed or do you even care that Orbitz could be tailoring your "recommendations" based on a Mac or PC search? Let us know in the comments.

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