By Tim Blotz
New advertising technology is raising a lot of questions about your privacy and a new company working with Uber and Lyft drivers is offering them money to put interactive tablets in their cars for targeted ads.
Two U.S. Senators, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, are calling for answers first.
Specifically, they want more information about face recognition technology that can identify your race, gender and approximate age and use the data to target you with advertising and what the marketing world calls "content."
The audience engagement company called Alfi is working with the rideshare giants to install the tablets. Alfi’s website says it uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to better serve ads to people.
Its algorithm understands small facial cues and perceptual details that make potential customers a good candidate for a particular product.
Klobuchar wants to know who is collecting the data and where it’s going.
"And I think your own data and privacy should be your own," she said. "You have a reasonable expectation of privacy when you get into the back seat of a rideshare. Secondly, who knows what else they’re recording? Are they listening when you talk?"
Both Klobuchar and Delaware Sen. Richard Blumenthal sent a letter this week to the CEOs of Uber and Lyft. They are demanding to know whether they have a business relationship with the company providing the digital tablets or the advertisements.
Also, how do their privacy policies apply to the tablets and ads?
"I think the worst part about it is many of those targeted ads are just based on what you search for," said Klobuchar. "This is actually going to be recording your face and entering it into some kind of a database and knowing where you are, what you’re doing, where you’re going, maybe even who you’re talking to," she said.
Alfi did not answer a request for an interview, but its website says their automation respects user privacy without tracking, storing cookies or using identifiable personal information.
It’s all data that Klobuchar believes people should be able to control for themselves.
"So, if your data is going to be used and sold to the highest bidder for an ad, you should make money off it, not them. And you should be able to turn it off at any moment," she added.
Klobuchar says she is not condemning the product, but is asking how it’s being used when it comes to people’s privacy.