SINGAPORE - A TikTok video has made waves online for revealing how easy it is to obtain someone's personal details such as mobile phone number and e-mail address from just a social photo of his airline boarding pass.
The video, which has amassed 30,000 likes as at Thursday (June 2), shows how, in the hands of malicious actors, such information can even be used to cancel someone's flight, putting an end to a long-awaited holiday overseas.
Speaking to The Straits Times, Mr Jason Ho, 40, said he created the video as he was concerned after seeing a widely circulated Instagram Reel posted by a female SEA Games athlete.
It shows an uncensored Singapore Airlines (SIA) boarding pass for a flight she was taking to Hanoi, Vietnam.
When asked whether it was aware of the TikTok video, SIA only said that the protection of its customers' personal data is of utmost importance to the airline.
SIA said when customers post their personal data on its social media sites, it either hides such information or advises them to delete their posts.
The now-deleted Instagram Reel, which had more than 200,000 views when Mr Ho, a performance coach, saw it on May 23, showed the athlete's boarding pass peeking out of her Singapore passport.
The boarding pass showed that the flight was departing Singapore on May 11 for Hanoi, where the SEA Games were held last month.
In his TikTok video, Mr Ho said that with just the e-ticket number and the holder's last name, it is possible to cancel his flight before he boards it, and change his seat.
Mr Andy Prakash, co-founder of cyber-security firm Privacy Ninja, showed The Straits Times how by using these details, one can view someone's full name, passport number, e-mail address and mobile phone number.
It is also possible to see some details of a person's travel companions if the tickets are under the same booking.
SIA said: "Customers who suspect that their booking may have been tampered with, or require assistance in general, should contact Singapore Airlines as soon as possible."
When asked about safety measures it has introduced to protect its customers, Jetstar Asia Airways said it has robust protection in place to ensure its customers' personal information is secure.
An AirAsia spokesman said the airline continuously reviews its services to ensure the security of its guests and for them to have the best experience.
He added: "A boarding pass, by design, requires certain personal information that enables passengers to navigate through an airport."
Dr Michael Chiam, a senior tourism lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, noted how airlines provide customers the option of managing their bookings online primarily for their convenience so that they can verify their personal information before boarding.
He said: "Customers should never disclose their personal information, including ticket barcodes, in the social media space.
"Some people, in their excitement to show others that they are doing something different by not flying economy but instead on first or business class, also like to show their boarding pass on social media."
Associate Professor Chang Tou Chuang from the National University of Singapore's Department of Geography, a tourism geographer, said: "In the pandemic age, the rather utilitarian boarding pass takes on greater significance. It is no longer just a pass. It has become a symbol of freedom, mobility, access, privilege.
"The incident is a wake-up call to be careful of what one posts online regardless of how innocuous or well-intentioned the post might seemingly appear."
Note: The story has been edited for clarity.