If there’s one worry that has continued to persist throughout the development of new technology, it’s the fear surrounding breaches of privacy. Over the past decade it’s become clear that computers, watches, phones and other devices are constantly being used to gather information, but according to a study in Surveillance and Society, the next piece of technology used for surveillance and gathering of information will be your car.
While self driving cars are – alongside electric power – the next step forward in the evolution of the automobile, this study highlights the many security risks which will surface once the technology has been adopted by the public.
“Through a self-driving car’s global positioning, system, navigational tools, and other data collection mechanisms, companies will be able to gain access to highly contextual data about passengers’ habits, routines, movements, and preferences. This trove of personal, locational, and financial data can be leveraged and monetised by companies by providing a data-stream for companies to target customers through personalised advertising and marketing,” says Luis F. Alvarez León, assistant professor of geography at Dartmouth.
Tracking and gathering of various parameters, the ability to predict and target drivers, will certainly be put to use by advertising companies and other targeted content groups, but as of yet the line dividing “marketing” from “invasion of privacy” is yet to be defined.
As the researchers point out, once self driving cars advance to the point of being safe for public use, the drivers ability to multitask during travel will become a common practice – going beyond the current multimedia ability of flicking through songs and expanding into the realm of browsing social media, checking emails and searching online.
Collecting data on these activities – paired with geolocation and routine tracking – means enough data to accurately predict preferences and likely outcomes if presented with various choices. From a marketing perspective this is not entirely new – for example phones and watches already store sufficient data for accurate targeting of individuals based off of previous input data – however it does mean this form advertising will certainly expand in use.

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