Identity X-file 0x02

I just received a notice from my national airline’s frequent flyer program (screenshot below), telling me that if the name listed in my air miles account information is different from any of my “official” identity tokens (for example because of a nickname or an initial), I will have trouble being automatically credited with my flight miles.

This is, theoretically, a technical enhancement. Now, I don’t know who exactly benefits from said enhancement, but I’m pretty sure that it isn’t the passengers of the airline, or the help desk people at Aeroplan that will have to take the irate calls and deal with people who have lost their ticket stubs and still want credit for the flight they a) paid for and b) submitted a valid unique identifier for (the Aeroplan account number).

Honestly, what is the point? There are no anti-terrorist requirements here, this policy is not from the airline, but from the frequent flyer company — all this affects is whether you get your air miles, not whether or not you get on the airplane.

It is most likely an anti-fraud measure, to protect against people who don’t actually have an Aeroplan card using another person’s card so that at least somebody gets the points – but wow, that’s some kind of low tolerance they have going there. Perhaps it is merely a coincidence that Aeroplan benefits from every airline mile not credited, since they then are guaranteed never to have to pay a redemption? But then, what do I know, I’m sure there are a lot of valid abuse cases where Fred Smith tries to rip off Aeroplan by using Fred R Smith’s air miles card on a flight… It probably happens all the time. Maybe there is a widespread Jr/Sr father & son conspiracy going on right under our noses, and this is the only way Aeroplan knows to crack down. Or maybe (entering full-scale conspiracy mode now; please don your tinfoil hats if you haven’t already) this is a subtle way to influence which identity token people use, since (for example) my drivers license has a different naming format from my passport — since I can’t set my Aeroplan account to BOTH formats simultaneously, it would seem that the easiest thing to do would be to always use my passport.

But seriously, naming data is notoriously volatile. This is not a new concept. To put into effect name-checking measures that cannot take such volatility into account is just stupid. Either their software is incapable of setting a reasonable threshold, or the company is choosing to set the threshold where it is – no matter which is the case, you just have to wonder what the exact cost vs. reward calculation is, because it isn’t obvious to me…

Identity X-file 0x02

1 thought on “Identity X-file 0x02

  1. Thanks for blogging this. I receive my email Areoplan statements, but I must admit I completely overlooked this. I agree completely with your sentiments as well.


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