Uber has started showing iPhone users ads for other companies in its push notifications. Screenshots posted on Twitter over the weekend show promotions for the Peloton app showing up in notifications from the Uber app —the same notifications many users have elected to leave on, because they’re what Uber uses to let you know when your ride has arrived.
For now, the company just seems to be testing the limits of what its customers will put up with, and it’s unclear whether Uber riders can expect push ads to be a regular presence on their phones in the future. “This was a limited test and users can always manage their mobile notification settings under Privacy and then Notifications in the app,” said Noah Edwardsen, an Uber spokesperson, in an email. Peloton didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The push notifications come just weeks after Uber announced it was launching a new advertising network in the app and across its platform. Uber plans to blast customers with ads for other businesses before and during your trip, in company emails, in Uber Eats, on top of the cars themselves, and is even testing ads in screens on tablets mounted in the backseat. Ads in push notifications, however, hadn’t been discussed publicly yet.
“Through our advertising division, we can help leading brands grow their relationships with consumers by connecting them at a moment when a customer is uniquely attentive,” Mark Grether, general manager of Uber’s new advertising division, said in a blog post announcing the new initiative.
Uber’s new plan to monetize your attention when you’re trying to get home from the airport drew widespread criticism, but ads in notifications reach even further in to users’ personal space than what critics anticipated.
And Uber is likely not to be alone in its effort to riddle iPhones with more and more advertising. Apple unveiled new ads in the app store last week as part of a broader push to welcome advertisers across its products and services. That roll out went so badly the company had to abruptly halt ads for gambling after they appeared in places like the pages for kids’ apps and—if you can believe it—apps for gambling addiction.
Notifications used to be a sacred space on the iPhone, reserved to let you know about Hinge matches or the agonizing minutes you’ll need to wait before your pizza arrives, but Apple loosened its restrictions in 2020. Apps are now allowed to send ads in push notifications, but only if they have your permission. According to Apple’s guidelines for developers:
Push Notifications should not be used for promotions or direct marketing purposes unless customers have explicitly opted in to receive them via consent language displayed in your app’s UI, and you provide a method in your app for a user to opt out from receiving such messages.
Presumably, that means most users are safe from Uber notification ads unless they’ve given the company direct consent, though many users may have granted that without realizing it. You can disable notifications for “Offers” in the settings in the Uber app, including what Uber calls discounts and promotions. The controls are in the settings menu under the Privacy tab.
Update: 10/31/2022 1:25 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with a comment from Uber.