Search Party

By | April 5th, 2006

First, the good news. Search Party, the hotel site that launches today, is a powerful new tool for travelers looking to save money on hotel rooms.

When you run a Search Party query, you get more than a price quote. The site also puts that number into context, displaying other costs of the room, such as taxes, booking fees and cancellation policy penalties. There’s also a display matrix that shows up to six competing sites side-by-side.

Even though there are several major travel sites that don’t participate in Search Party, it is definitely a useful resource for price shopping.

Now the bad news. Search Party also offers a downloadable application, like Sidestep, that installs on your computer’s operating system and launches whenever you search a side that doesn’t work with Search Party (like Expedia and Travelocity).

I haven’t installed the Search Party Desktop, and I won’t.

Granted, Search Party insists its application is on the up-and-up. “It isn’t spyware and does not currently sell or display third-party ads,” a company spokeswoman promised.

What’s more, Search Party doesn’t collect financial information, I am told. But it does gather personal identifiable information, and data that is “aggregated for site analytics … and to share with participating partners.” (Although to be fair, Search Party’s policy’s come off sounding as if it does its best to protect your privacy.)

I’m deeply suspicious of anything that can track my movements online, and that could, with the flick of a switch, start displaying third party ads against my will.

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