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Your Car Is The Next Advertising And Data Collection Frontier

Advertisers view your personal auto as the next frontier to display targeted, relevant advertisements based upon when and where you drive, plus how long you park at certain locations. All of this is possible as manufacturers equip cars with computing technology similar to what's in your smart phone and tablet computer. Think of you car as simply another mobile device.

Business Insider explained advertisers' interest:

"Americans spend an average of 1.2 hours a day traveling between locations and American commuters spend an average of 38 hours a year stuck in traffic. If mobile apps and Internet-based services can shoehorn their way into the in-car environment, that means a great opportunity to expand their ability to engage consumers, absorb their attention, and gather data."

It really doesn't matter whether you drive your car, or you use the Google self-driving car. The data collection will be massive and advertisers plan to capitalize on the opportunity. Say Media reported:

"... the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the automotive industry will be the second largest generator of data by 2015. Gartner reports that, by 2018, one in five cars on the road will be "self-aware" and able to discern and share information on their mechanical health, their global position and status of their surroundings."

The data collected is not only GPS location and engine performance from sensors embedded throughout the car. The data collected is not only your travel directions and map information. It also includes your music selections and interactions with other mobile devices, since cars are Internet connected, access files in cloud services, and often operate as WiFi hotspots.

Then, there is the coming practice of "geo-fencing," the dynamic, real-time display of location-specific advertisements:

"According to the Placecast Blog, they and Aha™ by HARMAN have begun testing new in-car advertising that delivers relevant, real-time promotional offers to consumers based on the vehicle's locations. Quiznos is the first brand to activate promotional offers using the new service. When your vehicle enters a geo-fenced area, a Quiznos audio ad is inserted into the stream. A tap on the interface emails a coupon to your mobile device for use in the store..."

So, if you are driving near a particular fast-food restaurant chain, you will likely see advertisements and/or coupons displayed in your car (and/or on your mobile device connected to your car) about nearby restaurants and stores. Say Media posed some more relevant questions:

"... how much access advertisers will actually have to proprietary in-vehicle systems. Should auto manufacturers act as a gatekeeper, shielding their car's drivers from unwanted messages? Or should auto brands open-source their code for in-vehicle modules like the Ford Motor Company? Ford's strategy is to provide a link allowing apps on Android phones or iPhones to be controlled through the car's electronic units."

Proprietary in-vehicle systems includes the myriad of sensors embedded throughout your car that monitor and report information about specific components (e.g., engine, brakes, cameras, speed, road conditions, etc.). For me, consumers should be in control. And, there are many more questions:

  • Who stores the data collected by your car, and how long is it retained?
  • Who owns the data collected by your car (e.g., driver, auto manufacturer, operating system software developer, mobile app developer, advertiser, advertising network, mobile device manufacturer, insurance company, etc.)?
  • What other companies is the data collection shared with (especially auto maintenance, repair, and sensor information)?
  • Who controls the data sharing?
  • When and where are relevant policies (e.g., privacy, terms of use) displayed?
  • Are programs opt-in or opt-out based for consumers? Hopefully, the former.
  • What privacy tools will be available for drivers?
  • What anti-virus options to prevent malware, spam and bot nets using your car?
  • Will cars include embedded coded by the NSA and other intelligence agencies?
  • Supposedly, targeted and relevant advertisements are a convenience for consumers. How much convenience is enough?

If current Internet practices win out, then your car will likely operate similar to your Web browser, with a race by advertisers and companies to collect as much as possible via a variety of technologies (e.g., not just browser cookies) that track you and your movements.

What are your views about smart cars? About advertisements via geo-fencing? About privacy options for drivers?

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