Opt-In Advertising

I was driving down the turnpike on my way to the office.  Looking at all the bumper stickers, decals, vanity license plates and assorted other messaging people put on their cars got me thinking about the ongoing discussion about privacy as relates to using personal information to serve relevant advertising.

People seem quite willing to tell us that they love fishing or the Yankees or Jesus. They’ve always announced who they will vote for or what issue they are most passionate about. It’s even become popular to represent one’s entire family with decals. This is true broadcast messaging. I know that other than making the decision to drive somewhere, I didn’t opt-in for this information. I can’t say that I really care that the vehicle in front of me is owned by a family with 2 parents, 4 kids, 2 dogs and a cat (Although I do give them driving integrity points if they have a family that large and aren’t driving a minivan). If at least one of their kids is an honor student, I’m happy to know that there is still some fresh intelligence coming into the gene pool, but otherwise that information is not particularly relevant to me. I suppose that if I were a thief, casing their home, it would help me to be able to count heads and know that the entire family, including the dogs just left the house.

So why do they do it? Why do they turn their cars into rolling billboards? And are these the same people who are concerned with online loss of privacy from information available to ad servers?

If they are so willing to share that information randomly why would they feel that PPC or display ads that are clearly on target for their interests are an invasion of their privacy?

Perhaps we should have an oversight organization whose job it is to approve acceptable vehicle messaging to safeguard the rights of innocent drivers being subjected to a profusion of potentially annoying or upsetting bumper stickers. All I can say about that is I’d love to be in the room when they reviewed Intelligent Design.

By the way, people who customize their cars with stickers and other adornments are more prone to road rage than other people, according to psychologist William Szlemko and his colleagues at Colorado State. I’m not sure how that relates to my point about opt-in advertising, but it’s kinda interesting, isn’t it?

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