Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Drive-By $pying

So they $ay:

"When the billboard has a brain" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  May 19, 2016

Once in a while, you drive past a billboard that’s advertising something you’d actually like to buy — a juicy hamburger, comfortable shoes, a better car. It’s as if the advertiser is reading your mind.

And maybe that is exactly what’s happening.

Billboard advertisers are getting inside our heads. For years, they’ve watched with envy as Internet advertisers have learned to precisely target our interests and tastes, by using personal data collected from our Web browsers. Now the billboard guys are assembling their own high-tech toolkits, full of slick and spooky new ways to pry open our wallets.

If lots of mothers are rolling by, the new billboards will know to skip the motorcycle ad and maybe push the new Disney movie instead.

The ads that appear on the billboard may depend on the electronic bread crumbs your cellphone leaves behind.

Sorry, but I'm not looking up there; I'm looking at the road.

Do you regularly visit a church, a strip club, or the public library? Drive a truck or lecture at Harvard? Give marketers a list of places you regularly visit, and they can accurately guess what you buy.

Your cellphone company has that list, and uses it to deliver targeted cellphone advertising. Make a lot of trips to the library, for instance, and you’ll get pop-up ads for the latest bestsellers.

Now the nation’s largest billboard company, Clear Channel Outdoor Inc., is bringing customized pop-up ads to the interstate. Its Radar program, up and running in Boston and 10 other US cities, uses data AT&T Inc. collects on 130 million cellular subscribers, and from two other companies, PlaceIQ Inc. and Placed Inc., which use phone apps to track the comings and goings of millions more.

All, I hate to say it, stored and stash in case government needs it.

Clear Channel knows what kinds of people are driving past one of their billboards at 6:30 p.m. on a Friday — how many are Dunkin’ Donuts regulars, for example, or have been to three Red Sox games so far this year.

The Radar program crunches the data and sorts them into categories of consumers: sports fans, home improvement buffs, fashionistas, and so on. Advertisers can learn demographic data such as the ages, ethnicities, and income ranges of groups of consumers. From this, Clear Channel can help its clients choose ads that will generate the maximum payoffs.

Radar is a perfect fit for digital billboards, which are basically giant video screens. There are 6,400 digital billboards in the United States (compared with 159,000 standard-sized models and 203,000 units of other varieties), and they can flash a different ad every 10 seconds or so. With Radar, Clear Channel can easily target different audiences at different times. And the company will also use the data to pick the most effective pitches for traditional billboards, the kind that stay in place for days or weeks.

Billboards are a mass medium, so Radar can’t get too personal. Indeed, Clear Channel and AT&T insist they’re aiming at groups of potential buyers, not you personally. They vow that information on individuals is never revealed, especially not names or addresses.

But it is there somewhere amongst all the numbers.

Still, AT&T can use its nationwide network to track individual responses to ads. Say you see a billboard ad for a Big Mac, then go to McDonald’s. Because AT&T provides the Wi-Fi Internet service in McDonald’s restaurants, it can track you going in, and McDonald’s will be informed that its Big Mac ad worked.

Will you at least chew the food first?

Radar’s pervasive spookiness has alarmed US Senators Al Franken and Charles Schumer, Democrats of Minnesota and New York, respectively, who have called for a federal investigation of Clear Channel’s “spying billboards.”

But that’s not quite right: The billboards themselves don’t track passing cars.

But Lamar Advertising Co. of Baton Rouge, La., has been doing exactly that. In an April campaign for General Motors Corp., Lamar and the digital ad company Posterscope USA tested electronic billboards that can see what kind of car you’re driving — then try to sell you a new one.

The Posterscope system ran in Chicago, Dallas, and parts of New Jersey. It used a high-resolution video camera that can identify the make and model of an oncoming car by looking at its grille. If the vehicle is a Ford Fusion or a Hyundai Sonata or a Toyota Camry, the image on the electronic billboard switches to General Motors’ Chevrolet Malibu, accompanied by a customized sales pitch that may go something like: “The Malibu has more available safety features than your Hyundai Sonata.”

Posterscope insists it poses no threat to privacy. Its software doesn’t capture license plate data, and all images are deleted after a few minutes.

To where?

Still, the brainy billboards are a little creepy — a Clear Channel executive used that very word when describing Radar to The New York Times. Perhaps they’re a worrisome reminder that digital surveillance never stops. Even when we’re out on the street, we’re on their radar.

Next thing you know the TV and desktop will be spying on yo.... !!!!!


Ready to go for a drive?

"GM sees sales tumbling as automaker shuns US rental-car market" by David Welch Bloomberg News  May 19, 2016

General Motors will probably report a US sales decline of more than 10 percent in May as it intensifies the strategy of shunning low-margin fleet deals with rental-car companies.

That's what was propping up sales!

The largest US automaker’s May performance underscores its mission to put fewer of its vehicles in rental-car fleets and more into the hands of retail consumers, who tend to buy better-equipped cars that sell at fatter profits. The Detroit-based company is also trying to limit the availability of used cars that get dumped onto dealer lots six or 12 months after rental firms buy them. Those models can drag down prices people will pay for new ones.

Looks like a glut of cars and a fal$e economy to me. Bubble getting ready to burst!

‘‘We’re going to stay very disciplined,’’ Alan Batey, president of GM North America, said in an interview. ‘‘We’ve seen this movie before and in fact probably played a leading role.’’


Retail sales bring in much more profit than sales to rental-car companies, which have the lowest margins of anything GM sells because those customers negotiate a volume discount, Batey said. In the past, the company would send almost 30 percent of its production to rental-car companies to sustain market share and keep factories running close to full production. GM plans to cut rental-fleet sales by 90,000 vehicles this year in total.

Prepare for lay-offs and job cuts (as they move more factories out of country!).

With a stronger market and its retail sales growing, GM doesn’t need to rely on fleet customers as much, Batey said.

GM’s strategy is starting to show results....


See: Morning Enabler 

Hey, a lot can change in three days!


Start 'er up!

Suzuki reports improper fuel economy tests but denies cheating

They lie even when they tell the "truth."

More than 500,000 Jeeps recalled 

I'd slow down if I were you.

Toyota expands recall over air bags

Now we have to call for a cab, 'er....

"Attorney for Uber drivers slams critics of $100 million settlement" by Dan Adams Globe Staff  May 23, 2016

The Boston labor lawyer who negotiated a controversial $100 million settlement on behalf of Uber drivers is responding forcefully to critics of the deal, saying drivers risk getting nothing if their lawsuits seeking benefits, higher pay, and job protections go to trial.

“If this settlement is scuttled, there is no guarantee that Uber drivers will get anything,” Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney, wrote in a response to objections that was filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco. “Plaintiffs negotiated the best deal possible that would result in fair monetary and non-monetary benefits to” drivers.

Liss-Riordan represented Uber drivers in Massachusetts and California who sued the ride-hailing company for misclassifying them as independent contractors, a policy they said illegally denied them the pay, benefits, and protections afforded to full employees.

That's the new gig, honk!

But in April, looming legal hurdles — in particular, an imminent court ruling that could have knocked thousands of drivers out of the case — prompted Liss-Riordan to work out a settlement with Uber rather than risk defeat at trial. Liss-Riordan has said she will apply to the court to receive 25 percent of the settlement amount as her fee.

She's getting how much?

A number of Uber drivers — including, embarrassingly, the initial plaintiff in Liss-Riordan’s case — expressed dismay at the deal. Many are angry they will still have to pay for their own gas and other expenses, while not receiving any wages for the time they spend waiting for fares.

Honk, honk!!

Some drivers also want more money than the $4,000 to $8,000 payouts frequent drivers would receive under the deal; others complained that the language of the pact allows Uber to continue deactivating drivers for any reason as long as it provides a written explanation.

“I feel the proposed amount offers drivers 10% of what they are entitled to,” an Uber driver named Gary Teitelbaum wrote in a submission to the court. “More worrisome, it fails to address, in any meaningful way, Uber’s ongoing unethical and illegal treatment of drivers. . . Seems this settlement is a boon only to Uber, who is getting off easy, and Ms. Riordan, who is getting rich while leaving [drivers’] situation not improved in any meaningful way.”

As a result, attorneys for some Uber drivers have filed objections to the settlement, or sought to replace Liss-Riordan as leader of the class-action lawsuits. They argued Uber made few meaningful nonmonetary concessions, and that even those will expire in two years. The settlement also conceded the central claim of the lawsuits too easily, they argued, allowing Uber to continue classifying its drivers as independent contractors and not employees..

In asking a judge to approve the agreement, Liss-Riordan said Los Angeles driver Steven Price and other critics were a vocal minority and had not carefully weighed the concessions offered by Uber against the risk of a trial. She blasted attorneys who filed objections as opportunistic, calling one a “celebrity lawyer” and suggesting the rest lacked her expertise. “Notably, some of the loudest objections come from lawyers who do not practice in this field,” Liss-Riordan wrote. “These lawyers have jumped into the fray to second guess [my] careful decision-making. . . . These same attorneys would have settled for a fraction of this amount were they given the opportunity, and . . . Uber drivers are tremendously fortunate to have experienced counsel negotiating on their behalves.”

Uber declined to comment. But in a recent filing, the company joined Liss-Riordan in defending the settlement.

The company’s attorneys said the objections were “largely irrelevant” and called the suggestion by some objectors that they had colluded with Liss-Riordan “laughable,” given the “hotly contested” proceedings before the settlement. They also noted that only about 30 drivers filed objections, out of a potential class of 380,000....


You know what would solve the problem?

Uber tests self-driving car in Pittsburgh

You are no longer cool, driver.

GAO report warns of cyberattacks on cars

Just trying to slow you down, and I'll never view car crashes the same.

So much for the gadgets, and it looks like the right time to be getting into the phone business.


AT&T wants to stream TV into your car

Time to get out of Dodge.

"LinkedIn said Wednesday that a 2012 breach resulted in more than 100 million of its users’ passwords being compromised — vastly more than previously thought. The business social network said that it believes a purported hacker’s claim that 117 million user e-mails and passwords were stolen in the breach, up from the 6.5 million user credentials that the company originally said were compromised. Those 6.5 million passwords were reset in 2012 and the company advised the rest of its users to change their passwords too. The hacker, who goes by the name ‘‘Peace,’’ was trying to sell the passwords on the dark Web for 5 bitcoin, or about $2,200, according to a Forbes report. Mountain View, Calif.-based LinkedIn Corp., which touts 400 million members in 200 countries and territories around the world, emphasized that there’s no indication of a new data breach. The company said it’s working to determine just how many of the passwords in question are still being used and is in the process of resetting them and notifying the users in question."

Takata taps financial adviser as recall costs mount

Uber rebuffs calls to release worker diversity numbers


Volkswagen reports profit drop as it deals with emissions scandal

Volkswagen talks cuts with unions as fallout from cheating scandal continues

Automakers still selling cars with riskiest Takata air bags

Uber initiates software improvements for drivers