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    Washington Post: Hotels connect the dots between guests and online reviews

    The Washington Post reports that some hotels are trying to identify which guests wrote anonymous reviews of their services, which can lead to that information being added to a traveler’s profile at the establishment:

    If you write a positive review, you might expect a reward from the hotel — a gift basket or a discount on your next stay. Pan a property, and you could get a concerned e-mail from the general manager asking you to reconsider your review. Or even a black mark against you in the chain’s guest database.

    John Baird, a lodging consultant in Jacksonville, Fla., says that hotels now use locations, dates and usernames that appear online to triangulate a guest’s identity. Once they find a likely match, the review is added to a hotel’s guest preference records, next to information such as frequent-guest number, newspaper choice and preferred room type. […]

    After hearing about one international hotel that retaliated against travelers who slammed the property, Helen O’Boyle, a Seattle-based computing consultant, is troubled by hotels that name-match. Once identified, she said, the travelers were tagged as “problem guests” in the hotel chain’s reward program.

    O’Boyle is careful not to reveal any information that might help a hotel identify her online. “Let’s just say that I’m glad my ratings site nicknames don’t look like my real name,” she told me. “And now, if I’m writing a bad review, I fudge the dates a bit and don’t mention any particular calamities that might be identifiable with what the hotel knows I experienced — just in case.” […]

    Since the first column I wrote about hotel guest profiles more than a decade ago, I’ve been deeply concerned about my own privacy as a traveler. Any time a hotel delivers my favorite newspaper (this one, of course) or leaves a fruit basket with apples (Pink Ladies) I get a little suspicious. How did they know?

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