Targeted Ads in Your Cab

5:45 PM -- If you ever ride in NYC cabs perhaps you should be concerned about plans to install GPS in the iconic yellow taxis.

New York City cabbies are up in arms about plans to install GPS tracking systems in their cabs, claiming that it will give their employers an unaturally watchful eye on them 24/7. I can understand their concerns, although I suspect that the limitations of GPS in Manhattan -- it is difficult for satellite signals to get a truly accurate lock in amongst the skyscrapers -- will make that less of an issue than might be expected.

If you look at the mockups of these systems, however, you might realize that the person who will be really adversely affected by these installations will be the hapless passenger. Basically, these are large screens and credit-card readers installed in the back of the cab with the rider.

That's right, a cab that can potentially be tracked with reasonable accuracy to within a few city blocks with a screen that could serve up targeted ads and sponsored content depending on where you are. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Last time they tested TVs in the back of cabs in NYC, the gizmos were right at head level, loud, and garish. A recipie for a horrible headache, in fact. I never figured out if it was actually possible to switch them off. Anyway, they weren't popular, and I think they all got ripped out a couple of years ago.

Well, get ready for round two: This time the ads know where you are.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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