Google Street View is collecting data on your cars

And here is what it tells us:

In the most recent paper, and one published earlier in the year by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, these were among the predictive correlations:

■ The system was able to accurately predict income, race, education and voting patterns at the ZIP code and precinct level in cities across the country.

■ Car attributes (including miles-per-gallon ratings) found that the greenest city in America is Burlington, Vt., while Casper, Wyo., has the largest per-capita carbon footprint.

■ Chicago is the city with the highest level of income segregation, with large clusters of expensive and cheap cars in different neighborhoods; Jacksonville, Fla., is the least segregated by income.

■ New York is the city with the most expensive cars. El Paso has the highest percentage of Hummers. San Francisco has the highest percentage of foreign cars.

That is from Steve Lohr at the NYT, and here is a link to the earlier research as cited in the first sentence.

Comments

My Subaru Crosstrek is not indicative. I'm about as far tight as it gets. I really wanted a Toyota Tundra.

Subarus in particular offer some clues about their owners. https://priceonomics.com/how-an-ad-campaign-made-lesbians-fall-in-love-with/

There seems to be some truth to that. I once believed I was a lesbian trapped in a man's body. The Subaru Forester is the model I identify with my lesbian brethren.

We bought the Crosstrek (surprisingly good clearance) b/c one of you nineteen-year-old college kids ran a red light and demolished our leased, brand-new Toyota Rav-4. The Warden insisted on a small SUV for tight parking lots.

I'm looking into installing a gun rack.

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Wow. Impressive. I keep hearing about "big data" and cars, but so far it has been along the lines of "We know you like coffee so we'll tell you when there is a Starbuck's up ahead." Which seemed pointless, as there is ALWAYS a Starbuck's up ahead. But this is different. Again, wow!

...very unimpressive IMO.

Why create a new complex system to indirectly estimate demographics via collection of automobile street "images" ... when the government already maintains very detailed databases on every automobile and driver in the nation (car registration and driver licenses) ??

Also simpler, for purely private companies, to just automatically photograph license plates and buy vehicle registration databases from state/local governments. Private automobile insurance companies probably have all this data anyway.

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'The system was able to accurately predict income, race, education and voting patterns at the ZIP code and precinct level in cities across the country.'

Congratulations - that was possible thirty years ago (at least). It isn't as if vehicle registration data was a state secret, after all.

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I see that the word "a·non·y·mize" dates to the 1970s.

It shoulda been the word of the year more recently. All this stuff is great and interesting, but I hope it will remain sufficiently anonymized that video billboards don't start targeting the specific me as I roll by.

(My new Subaru Outback 2.5i did great on the Tahoe trip, 32 mpg over the whole thing, 2 adults, 3 teens, luggage.)

Speaking of anonymized .. a white Subaru Outback in Tahoe.

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Always be suspicious of any statistics that cite Jacksonville, FL. It is a highly unusual city, an outlier. It has the third largest land area of any U.S. city.

>Always be suspicious of any statistics that...

.... stroke the egos of people in Burlington, VT.

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It wouldn't work in our street unless Google Street View can see through hedges. Nor do I know how Google would find data on "income, race, education " to do comparisons with.

Don't worry, after Brexit, you won't have any of those pesky EU data privacy laws standing in the way of a company wanting to make a buck - oops, pound. For example, 14 million UK data records are just waiting to be filled in properly - 'The beleaguered credit reference agency Equifax has now admitted that 694,000 customers in the UK had their data stolen between May and July this year.

The firm's original estimate of its UK cyber-theft victims, made last month, was fewer, at nearly 400,000.

Equifax now says that it will contact its affected UK customers by letter to offer them help.

It admits they may be at risk of "possible criminal activity".

Patricio Remon, Equifax's chief European executive, said: "Once again, I would like to extend my most sincere apologies to anyone who has been concerned about or impacted by this criminal act."

More than 14 million further UK records were stolen, but they contained only names and dates of birth.' http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41575188

"Don’t worry, after Brexit, you won’t have any of those pesky EU data privacy laws standing in the way of a company wanting to make a buck "

Why wouldn't Britain be competent to pass their own set of laws? Is the implication that Germans aren't capable of passing their own data privacy laws and require an external authority (the EU) to impose them? Or does this just reveal an emotional need on your part to be angry at anyone who would reject a group that you identify with?

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lol, do you ever drive those cars hidden behind the hedges? Then, they are seen by a variety of surveillance systems, public and private.

But not Google street view. And if Equifax know my income they must have bribed it out of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs - I can't think of anyone else who knows it. I don't know how Google could know much about my education unless they scanned the national and local newspapers of decades back, and even then their knowledge would be pretty incomplete. And as for "race" - how would they know that without just guessing? And how can one guess at a social construct?

You might be thinking about what Street View publishes, but think about what the sees. That includes other traffic removed from the map. It includes pedestrians.

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'And if Equifax know my income they must have bribed it out of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs'

One assumes you use the banking system, credit cards, loans, etc. - read through every T&C?

If you mean does a company like Experian or Equifax know what you report to the tax authorities, that is quite unlikely. Does such a company have the ability to collect data related to your all those transactions that don't involve cash (think car loan, for one concrete example, where you likely agreed to a credit check first, likely including information relating to your income), then extrapolate - they sure do. It is a profitable business to be in, after all. Though not so profitable in the EU, generally - luckily, you will have all the benefits and privileges of not being in the EU soon. As will Experian and Equifax will making money from the British market.

"One assumes you use the banking system, credit cards, loans ...": loans, no. Car loans? Certainly not: a mug's game. I use multiple bank accounts, some in my name, some in joint names with family members; it would be difficult to work out, without guessing, which money flows represent my income. Moreover one of my income streams never enters a British bank account. My credit cards cover much of my outgoings, and also my wife's, but that hardly pins down my income. I don't see how any one company knows how much I make in royalties from my IPR. And so on. I'm not saying it couldn't be done but I am saying that if anyone could be bothered he'd just end up guessing anyway.

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Sure, street view can get meaningful data, but this specific set of findings aren't that important in practice. Many large tech companies have better predictors than this: Some that, based on conversations with people in major political campaigns, politicians would kill to get. Poor Nate Silver has to rely on polls, instead of getting honest signals. A world where companies exchange those datasets with a single party in exchange for political favors is a plausible dystopia.

The scary part about the street view findings is that Google can merge this with all kinds of other data streams they have access to, and Alphabet is set up so that they could acquire other players. Imagine a world where you can mix what Google has today with some bank-related data, some social media and phone metadata, all stored more or less forever. Why have the FBI do background checks, when you'd have everything in one place?

'A world where companies exchange those datasets with a single party in exchange for political favors is a plausible dystopia.'

Come now, we are living in the best of all possible dystopias as it is right now. And in the U.S., there is only a single party, with several different factions that like to pretend to be separate.

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https://www.wired.com/story/how-peter-thiels-secretive-data-company-pushed-into-policing/

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But, could it see

The

Gunrack inside the truck

and

The NRA sticker on the bumper.

The Google Street View
Counted trucks and Subarus
Then declared, Trump wins!

The Google Street View

Counted trucks and Subarus

Then declared, Trump wins!

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New York is the city with the most expensive cars.

Duh. Owning a car in NYC is more expensive and less useful than owning one elsewhere. Hence, car owners in NYC tend to be richer than car owners elsewhere. Ergo....

On a city but not state basis?

https://www.forbes.com/2009/11/06/luxury-cars-states-lifestyle-vehicles-bmw-mercedes_slide.html

Not sure how California manages to be a socialist hellhole *and* have the most luxury cars, but there you go.

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It's like general characteristics can be derived from aggregate individual preferences. Will wonders never cease.

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