17:46 GMT +326 February 2017

    New ‘Radar’ Billboards Spy on Unsuspecting Public, Then Track Them by Phone

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    Clear Channel releases legally-dubious Big Brother billboards that intrude on privacy.

    A troubling new revelation of domestic consumer intelligence gathering emerged Sunday, when privacy advocates revealed a new kind of billboard that uses surveillance triangulation.

    Clear Channel Outdoor, which owns several hundred thousand billboards throughout the United States, has partnered with telecommunications giant AT&T to track the public.

    Surveillance cameras
    © Flickr/ Jonathon McIntosh

    Clear Channel’s digital billboards will transmit a signal to the cellphones of pedestrians and drivers on public roads and sidewalks to capture consumer travel and behavior patterns. The aggregated data will include detailed consumer characteristics including the average age, gender, and socioeconomic profile of everybody within eyeshot of an enabled billboard. Clear Channel plans to sell the aggregated data to advertisers to enhance billboard targeting.

    Andy Stevens, a research senior vice-president at the advertising giant, observed that "obviously the data is very valuable to an advertiser." Still, Stevens acknowledged that the company’s surveillance-style billboards "sound a bit creepy." He downplayed concerns of indiscriminate data-mining by claiming that, "It’s easy to forget that we’re just tapping into an existing data ecosystem.”

    Privacy advocates quickly blasted Stevens’ assessment that Clear Channel’s Big Brother billboard was merely an extension of current data targeting methods. "People have no idea that they’re being tracked and targeted," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

    Privacy advocates also contend that Clear Channel’s billboards are an illegal intrusion upon an individual’s privacy, noting the impossibility of informed consent when tracking the public. Industry officials often counter that the accepted terms of agreement provide provisions allowing for data collection, which the consumer accepts by simply using the product.

    Terms and condition agreements are intentionally written in complex legalese to deter consumers from comprehension or consent. Studies routinely indicate that fewer than 1 in 4 people read the terms and conditions for products they use. Still, these often unnecessarily-binding agreement packages are routinely affirmed by courts on the basis of a commercial necessity.

    However, Clear Channel’s billboards present a novel issue in consumer surveillance. The billboard interacts with a cellphone, in cooperation with the phone user’s telecommunication carrier. While the cellphone user’s agreement likely contemplated data collection for advertising purposes, the interplay between cellphones and billboards was never, until now, contemplated between the end user and the telecommunications provider, rendering this form of data collection potentially illegal.

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has begun looking at earlier generations of enhanced mobile-device tracking and the indiscriminate collection of geolocation information. In 2013, Nomi Technologies, an Android app provider, was forced to settle after the FTC determined that the company’s privacy policy failed to inform consumers that it was collecting and sharing personal information with advertisers.

    Clear Channel announced their new digital billboards, named "Radar," on Monday. Since then, millions of unsuspecting people in cities across the US, including Los Angeles and New York, have already fallen victim to a legally-dubious intrusion on their privacy.


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    privacy, big data, data, Big Brother, surveillance, consumer spying, consumer surveillance, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Center for Digital Democracy, AT&T, Clear Channel, Jeffrey Chester, Andy Stevens, Los Angeles, New York, United States
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    • avatar
      ah yes, 1984 is alive and well :)
    • Is it because I am black?
      And think of the development costs, Africans are starving for your right to obey!
    • A = π r 2
      'The aggregated data will include detailed consumer characteristics including the average age, gender, and socioeconomic profile of everybody within eyeshot of an enabled billboard.'

      Exactly the kind of information that will become even more valuable under TPP and TTIP conditions. That is why the US government has been lobbied to try and crowbar it out of Apple via the FBI on behalf of the multinationals.
    • Mother Gorillain reply tomichael(Show commentHide comment)
      michael, think of the positive side, it might prevent crime and vigilantism.
    • Mother Gorillain reply toA = π r 2(Show commentHide comment)
      ultravi01et, true, but soon we'll all be wearing our Google glasses anyway, advising us of everything worth buying in a manageable radius...
    • avatar
      michaelin reply toMother Gorilla(Show commentHide comment)
      Mother Gorilla, would that then be the thin edge of the wedge? :)
    • avatar
      The terrorist American government has no intention of upholding human rights and freedoms and the Amerisheep have yet to fight for them. Well. That is in the last two hundred years. Lol.
    • avatar
      I'm kind of in the dark here. How can pinging my phone give any information? (I have a 9 year old flip phone with a no-name pre-paid plan.) I guess all y'all out there with them thar smart phones that hold all your personal stuff on them should maybe be concerned, but then again all y'all with them thar smart phones deserve all you get anyway.
    • avatar
      The one Who knows
      Soviet style invigilation pales in comparison to what is happening now - and knowing that another crisis is cooking up - they will serve government solution as a 'bitter pill'. check this one independenttrader.org/are-we-waiting-for-another-2008.html
    • avatar
      Randall Lee Hilburnin reply tomichael(Show commentHide comment)
      michael, Another brick in the wall of the prison. Remember - "I always feel like somebodies watching me. I can't enjoy my cup of tea."
    • Mother Gorillain reply tomichael(Show commentHide comment)
      michael, Randall L. Hilburn and drivel4u are right, there is another comforting factor, too much information for the state to check, most of our actions will hopefully still escape notice. I say hopefully, because privacy is a value to uphold everywhere. In fact, as an act of resistance, we should all communicate more, rather than less, and hope they collapse under the workload.
    • Washington 76
      This will provide the how it accomplished end of things.

      Jan 13, 2015 Why Are Cell Phone Towers Going Up on Public Schools All over the Country?

      This is a follow up to the last video we did based on a tip sent to us by a viewer who wanted to know how it was okay that the largest elementary school in Dallas put up a giant cell phone tower right on the basketball court next to the playground.

    • avatar
      michaelin reply toMother Gorilla(Show commentHide comment)
      Mother Gorilla, yes, that is one of the basic problems recognised I believe in int circles - too much data and how to locate within a specified time frame. I think that we're all adding to the eventual system overload for the computers and analysts....:)
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