Spend enough time searching Google for Chinese foods and one hour later you will begin to see commercials of restaurants that serve these foods. Spend enough time driving to boutiques and shortly after, your car will begin to show ads related to fashion and offer recommendations.
This week, Bloomberg spoke to Telenav Inc. , a California-based company that works to show smart car ads, using ‘driving habits’. According to the report, Telenav says it is working with “several automakers” to start using this technology and expects it to be on the streets in three years.
In a way, smart car ads are the next most logical step for targeted advertising. Companies already pay fortunes to know what you do on the internet to offer you targeted content. Knowing where people drive reveals a more holistic view of what the consumer wants and needs – and with the arrival of autonomous cars, our cars will be more and more connected.
Did you stop driving to a frequent spot? It may be inferred that you lost your job. Or let’s say you started going less to the grocery store and the sensors are noticing less weight in the vehicle every time you shop. It may be that you are trying to save money or go on a diet. All of this is valuable information for advertising companies.
In January, Visa demonstrated a payment interface for vehicles, which could offer even more data to advertisers. Meanwhile, Telenav already has ideas to attract people to this journey of constant tracking.
Let’s say you can not afford fancy features like built-in navigation or the ability to connect your vehicle to an app on your phone. The automaker will install this for free, you only have to allow advertising to come up from time to time. Anyone who has luxury cars will not have to suffer with such ads, since the price paid will probably already have included an internet connection.
The targeted advertising model already works that way – people are generally willing to give away their data for a discount. Similarly, a free upgrade to your smart car may be enough to persuade people to let themselves be tracked.
In an article on smart cars and data collection published last month, the Washington Post noted that this process may reveal much more information than your taste of pizza or how often you put your seat belt on. Imagine that others can check your trips to police stations or STD / HIV testing centers. With advanced data mining tools, it would be easy to infer sensitive information about drivers’ health, their relationships and employment.
Automakers are not bound by HIPAA – the US law with health insurance rights and duties guidelines – but have agreed to certain protections from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which requires obtaining driver consent before collecting data.
Like all forms of data, the government will have almost unrestricted access. As a report in ArsTechnica points in the absence of explicit legal safeguards, almost nothing prevents the police from accessing the data without warrants.