It wasn’t until The Detroit Free Press reported on General Motors’ radio-tracking program, which monitored the listening habits of 90,000 drivers in the L.A. and Chicago areas for three months in late 2017, that it became clear that the future of targeted advertising in cars is here.
GM captured details such as what radio station was on, the volume level, and ZIP codes of vehicle owners, and then uploaded the data to its servers using the vehicles on-board WiFi. The goal was to determine the relationship between a drivers listening habits and what they buy and sell that data to advertisers.
With data like GM is collecting, advertising can be specifically targeted to an individual and based on a person’s habits, like the ads you see on social media. Connected cars can create up to 600GB of data a day and self-driving cars can be expected to generate more than 200 times that amount. The value of the data is expected to reach more than $1.5 trillion by the year 2030.
Privacy advocates say GM is surveilling unwitting customers. The automaker says that customers who use connected services must first opt in and that all of this is in the fine print of the user agreements. Though most consumer and privacy advocates say that those terms are vague and not descriptive enough for people to understand what is being gathered about them.