Drones

A Drone Just Saw You Window Shopping and Wants to Offer a Deal. Exciting or Scary?

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Everything's fine until it starts hovering over the porn shops.
Credit: Don McCullough / photo on flickr

A marketing firm is tracking mobile phone travel patterns with the use of drones in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. Is this more or less frightening than the authorities tracking you? It depends on how you feel about people trying to sell you things. The goal, eventually, is for this triangulated information to be used by advertisers to offer deals to potential customers based on proximity. From Venture Beat:

The capture does not involve conversations or personally identifiable information, according to director of marketing and research Smriti Kataria. It uses signal strength, cell tower triangulation, and other indicators to determine where the device is, and that information is then used to map the user's travel patterns.

"Let's say someone is walking near a coffee shop," Kataria said by way of example.

The coffee shop may want to offer in-app ads or discount coupons to people who often walk by but don't enter, as well as to frequent patrons when they are elsewhere. Adnear's client would be the coffee shop or other retailers who want to entice passersby.

Adnear apparently already gathers mobile traffic data like this but has to use people on bikes, cars, and trains and the like. Drones would get them better coverage. Kataria says no data about the user is gathered (they give each phone its own code to track it), and they don't take pictures.

Awesome or awful? I know people whine about advertising and marketing, but I'm finding targeted advertising to be quite the boon. I happen to be in the market for a new dining table and chairs, and I'm not paranoid about online cookies, so my browsers know where I've been visiting. Online targeted advertising has improved to the point that advertisers apparently know which kinds of chairs and tables I've been looking at, so it's serving up ads that aren't just for chairs and tables, but for the same style and (even colors) of chairs I had been looking at and same size and shapes of tables. Far from being disruptive or annoying, this type of advertising is helping me by showing me options and deals that I wouldn't even had known existed otherwise.

So advertising based on knowledge of where you actually are spending your time seems like it would be preferential to yet another ad vainly trying to get you to download some money-grubbing "freemium" mobile game. But people can get weird about targeted advertising. It's like they don't trust their ability to say no when an ad actually offers them something they want or need.

The Federal Aviation Administration just recently released it first round of proposed rules for private commercial drone use. Read about that here.

NEXT: Supreme Court review of cell-site cases?

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  1. If the AI is as comically simple-minded as Amazon’s, I wish them luck. ‘Why, yes Amazon-bot, I’d love to buy the thing I just bought from you last week. I really do need a second electric smoker…just because’

    1. How many vibrators does one person need?

      1. 3? 5? 7?

        How many holes do you have?

        1. He makes new ones all the time.

      2. Is this a trick question?

    2. GODDAMMIT AMAZON I DO NOT WANT TO BUY THAT DELUXE SIZED DOLPHIN DILDO

      1. DOLPHIN RAPE IS REAL!!!111! (with Amazon Prime)

    3. I’d be happy if Amazon just explained to me the logic behind what is and what is not an “add on” item. Because currently it seems completely random.

      1. Add-ons are based on what other people do.

        e.g. People who buy the DELUXE SIZED DOLPHIN DILDO also often buy rape shoes and weight lifting equipment.

        1. I’m referring to something else. Some months ago, Prime free shipping became “Prime free shipping on orders more than $25 and [insert confusion here]”.

          A

          1. And half my comment disappeared in posting. Oh well.

    4. I get that with Steam

      ‘Recommended for you – this game you bought 4 years ago.’

  2. Well since you voluntarily left your house, you have absolutely no expectation of privacy anymore.

    Why if they wanted to, it would be perfectly legal, reasonable, and practical for Macy’s to hire a marketing person to follow every resident around all day offering them verbal deals, so really, this is no different. Just like cameras everywhere is fine because they could always just hire more cops and assign every person a police escort at all times (as long as they aren’t in their house, of course).

    1. [Tulpa nods in agreement]

      1. Who is this Tulpa guy and why do I always see references to him? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Tulpa actually post anything so he must have been legendary back in the day…

        1. Eh, imagine Bo, PB, and John, all combined into one person who claimed to be a maths professor. Anything you then imagine will be pretty close to how he actually was.

          1. “PB” happens to be my initials. I was about to open a can…

            1. Hopefully you’re familiar with the PB I was referring to.

          2. You forgot to include the string of sock puppets who ‘follow’ him and ‘agree’ with him.

            1. Oh right. bassjoe, it is widely believed (with some evidence) that he invented a bunch of handles to come in and nod in agreement with him when he said ridiculous things (which is to say, all the time).

              1. Believed? It’s true. He fucked up and forgot to switch the handles back at least once.

        2. A guy with a raging authority boner who had the audacity to claim he was a libertarian. Basically shriek, but more pedantic and less coke-addled.

        3. I’d go with “infamous” rather than “legendary”.

          Or maybe just use “shithead” to describe him, and that way you can go with either one:

          Infamous shithead.

          Legendary shithead.

          See? It works either way!

        4. He’s a conservative version of Bo. College math professor, teacher of freshman calculus, failed to get tenure at Pitt, now works at some third-rate place in Virginia, bitter about it, desperate for intellectual validation, expert goalpost mover, incompetent insulter, definitely fat. He stopped posting as Tulpa because even he realized that his name was mud, but he comes back every now and then with a new handle and is almost instantaneously recognized. He hates and blames Pro Glib, BakedPenguin, me, Episiarch, and above all SugarFree for it. He once called us the Axis of Glib, for which we will be forever grateful.

          1. And I meant to add that he craves, above and beyond all else, to be the smartest guy in the room.

            1. You’re such a delicate flower are you sure you can squat 1,000?

              1. THURTEEN

                YEAR OLD

                GIRL

    2. Actually, wouldn’t your Macy’s example be considered harassment/stalking, especially if you couldn’t opt out?

      Here, even if you opt out of getting ads delivered automatically to your phone, will your information still be collected/stored somewhere? I feel like that may cross a line into a privacy violation tort.

    3. “Well since you voluntarily left your house, you have absolutely no expectation of privacy anymore.”

      Just because new technology lets them track me in public like they couldn’t before doesn’t necessarily mean my right to privacy completely disappears the moment I go out in public.

      It might just as well mean that my reasonable expectations of privacy have been broadened to include activity that never needed to be protected as private before.

      P.S.

      Band or monster?

      1. …doesn’t necessarily mean my right to privacy completely disappears the moment I go out in public.

        According to THE LAW?, that’s exactly what it means.

        1. Well, According to our tradition of BRITISH COMMON LAW, how our legal rights are circumscribed and protected can and does change over time.

          A fucking LAW isn’t valid if it violates my Constitutional rights!

          And besides you never answered the question:

          Band or monster?

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qPzl5YIGWY

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5C4HuROoNU

          1. Oh sorry, monster. Though I do like the band.

            And I agree with you in principal btw; I think it’s an intrusion also. But I don’t see anything happening anytime soon to address it.

  3. If the worst thing to come out of the dawn of the private drone era is more spam in your email junk folder I’d say that’s a fair price to pay for the tremendous upside they offer.

  4. I’m not worried about private companies collecting data on me in order to sell me things so much as I am malicious actors like haxxors or the government getting their grubby mitts on the data.

    Of course when I mention that to most people, their response is “well that’s why we need to regulate the kkkorporations.”

  5. Bring me some beer, drone. It’s cold outside.

  6. A Drone Just Saw You Window Shopping and Wants to Offer a Deal. Exciting or Scary?

    Depends on the deal, doesn’t it?

    “Buy that car I saw you looking at or I’ll murderdrone ya!” on your smartphone, while the person in front of you actually explodes, would be a pretty effective sales pitch. They’d sell you underwear, too.

    1. Depends on the deal, doesn’t it?

      For just 500$ a month, we will keep the IRS off your back, LEOs looking the other way, and favorable regulations written!

    1. I was going to suggest that Grafs should send more shotgun ammo if the drone is still working.

  7. I see you’re looking at drones, would you like to buy a drone?

    1. Pantsed the link!

      1. WTF? Jeb Bush was a pilgrim child molester?

      2. Dorothy Bush Koch????

        That just gave the liberal conspiracy theorists apoplexy!

  8. backdoors

  9. OT, but: I don’t know what it is about Scott Walker, but he sure is making the main stream media shit their pants, lol. He’s like the male version of Sarah Palin or something, except, unlike with Palin, I that I get this feeling that there is fear in their disdain for the guy.

    1. Fear is exactly what it is. He is gonna kick their ass and they know it.

      Thus Bo’s rants about the guy.

      1. I haven’t been paying close attention lately…

        Aside from the idiotic college thing what’s Bo’s problem with Walker?

        1. TEAM RED likes Walker. TEAM BLUE hates Walker. Bo’s sympathies are reflexively TEAM BLUE. Q.E.D.

    2. I have a number of FB acquaintances that are members of the UW/Madison progressive set.

      While I don’t really have an opinion on Gov. Walker, he seems like a pretty standard milquetoast Republican to me, the temper tantrums that he evokes from my previously mentioned FB acquaintances bring me great joy.

      1. the temper tantrums that he evokes from my previously mentioned FB acquaintances bring me great joy

        Throw in that the lamestream media seems to hate him and I wonder how bad could he be…

  10. “The capture does not involve conversations or personally identifiable information, according to director of marketing and research….”

    That statement could have been taken from any official missive from the Obama Administration after the Snowden revelations came out. Aren’t we going to hear about the differences between metadata and personally identifiable information, too?

    There’s a problem when the government collects this information without a warrant, but at least there’s a way to respect an individual’s right to privacy. You get an officer to submit a sworn statement and a judge to agree that a warrant is justified given probable cause, a description of the thing to be searched, etc.

    And the problem with the Obama Administration’s data collection program is that it ignores that warrant process by which an individual’s rights are protected.

    Just because this company isn’t the government doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to privacy–and is there any way they can protect my right to privacy?

    At what point do I get a choice?

    1. Just because this company isn’t the government doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to privacy…

      Under current jurisprudence, as long as you are not in your home, that’s exactly what it means. You have NO right to privacy in public. Not sure how that squares with dressing rooms though…

      At what point do I get a choice?

      You already have a choice. Become a morbidly obese* shut-in, line your walls with lead to prevent any form of energy from radiating out of the walls (which is then fair game for cops to pick up with different types of scanners), and never open your door for anyone. See how simple it is to ensure your privacy?

      *if you aren’t morbidly obese, you aren’t correctly being a shut-in

      1. You do have limited right to be left alone in public whether or not that is technically a “right to privacy”. For example, you can’t be harassed, followed around or stalked.

        1. I know, but it’s very, VERY rarely enforced unless a person jumps through the hoops of going to court. You going to do that for every invasive advertisement campaign?

          Sorry, this is a hot-button issue for me, because 1) it deals with private actors, not gov’t, so it doesn’t rile people up like it would otherwise, and 2) I’m an intensely private person who hates datamining no matter who is doing it.

        2. I think that plenty of people would consider having their movements monitored and then being ruthlessly spammed as being followed and harassed.

      2. You already have a choice. Become a morbidly obese* shut-in, line your walls with lead to prevent any form of energy from radiating out of the walls (which is then fair game for cops to pick up with different types of scanners), and never open your door for anyone. See how simple it is to ensure your privacy?

        Ah, the Third Party Doctrine.

      3. Under current jurisprudence?

        You mean according to jurisprudence up until now.

        If they harm someone by violating their Constitutional rights, a remedy can be sought in the court system–by current jurisprudence.

      4. “You already have a choice. Become a morbidly obese* shut-in, line your walls with lead to prevent any form of energy from radiating out of the walls (which is then fair game for cops to pick up with different types of scanners), and never open your door for anyone. See how simple it is to ensure your privacy?”

        That’s one hell of a free society you got there.

        You can have your rights respected–just as long as you lock yourself in your house?

        Better shut all the blinds, too, ’cause if they want to, those things can see inside your house.

        1. Blinds? You want something more heavy duty than that. The cops can use a laser to detect vibrations in your windows to listen to conversations inside.

  11. I assume I’d always just get XYZ reminders…

  12. Exciting or Scary?

    Neither, just really goddamn annoying unless there’s some way to block the ads.

  13. I’m not sure this is much different than Ray Croc flying over towns in the Mid-West, and planning sites for future McDonald’s locations based on the location of churches and schools. On the other hand, Ray wasn’t paying attention to how often specific persons went to the church how long they stayed.

    1. Except Ray Croc probably didn’t send out mass mailings a dozen times a week to every resident in town.

  14. “Let’s say someone is walking near a coffee shop,” Kataria said by way of example.

    The coffee shop may want to offer in-app ads or discount coupons to people who often walk by but don’t enter, as well as to frequent patrons when they are elsewhere. Adnear’s client would be the coffee shop or other retailers who want to entice passersby.

    Of course, they don’t understand that, *perhaps*, when I’m walking down the street, listening to music or surfing or watching a movie, that I just might NOT want my phone to keep interrupting that with text messages advertising deals for a business I’m not fucking interested in (because if i was, then I’d be *entering* that business, no?).

    But, as I like to say – its damn hard to make someone understand something when their lively-hood depends upon them not understanding it.

    1. One of the big problems with texts is that they are more in your face than email. They need to be quiet and filterable.

      I keep my phone on silent approx 100% of the time, so sometimes texts pile up. Which I like.

      1. the nice thing about smartphones is being able to select separate ringtones for contacts – there’s only like two people in the world I’ll drop everything to answer when they call.

        But you still can’t auto-ignore texts from all but a small group of people. Its all or nothing.

  15. So advertising based on knowledge of where you actually are spending your time seems like it would be preferential . . .

    To a *point*.

    The flipside to this is that you get caught up in advertising ‘ruts’ where everytime you want to look at something that isn’t ‘normal’ for you, the ads keep directing you back to what *they* think you want.

    Personally, every machine I’ve dealt with that tried to ‘help’ me has failed miserably. That’s from copiers (no, I *do want to copy this legal sized paper onto ‘letter’, stop reverting!) to Microsoft Office (yes, I know it ‘looks’ like an outline but please, please, for the love of god, will you stop auto-indenting!) to my damn phone (no, I don’t want you to keep turning on wifi every time you detect a network, no, it won’t save me money and it eats my battery, please stop reverting settings) to EAS messaging (no, I don’t really need to know about flash flood warnings for Maricopa county – I’m 200 miles away).

    1. Oh, and there’s the always wonderful ‘please, for the love of god, just PRINT THE DAMN DOCUMENT!’

  16. Personally, I prefer NO advertising unless I ask for information.

    Regarding your table and chairs example: If I could say, “I’d like information on table and chair that meet these parameters: (size, color, price, etc.) with advertisements to END one week from today, I might appreciate the information. But what usually happens is that when you go looking for a 6-place, solid oak table and chairs to be purchased within the week for less than $XX, you get ads for patio furniture, wicker, veneer, PVGC, glass, 12-place, 8-place, 2-place, 4-place tables and chairs for the next six months. If any meet the physical parameters, they’re out of line on price.

    Given the options, forget it. I’d rather have none.

    Personally, the major effect of most advertising on me is irritation or indifference. I am very rated motivated to buy something by advertising except in those cases where I didn’t realize a product existed and it’s something useful. That happens maybe once every couple of years. The rest of the time, my purchases are driven by my own research. I determine I need something (independent of advertising) and then go looking for it.

    Coffee shop drones buzzing me to offer me “deals” should stay our of baseball bat range.

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