Privacy Tip # 33 – Shopper tracking billboards

I have commented before on the use of location based services on mobile telephones and that apps (and your telecommunications provider) use and sell your location data for all sorts of purposes without your knowledge. The choice is yours as to whether or not you allow apps to have access to your location. The same is not true if you use an easy pass. Have you ever seen those signs on the side of highways that say “20 miles and 22 minutes to…?” They look like construction signs, but are electronic tracking devices that are tracking easy passes to determine how fast it takes to get from one of those digital signs to the next. If you don’t like that idea, your only option is to wrap your easy pass in foil and take it out when you need it. Yes, people really do that.

There is also no consumer choice when it comes to shopper-tracking billboards. Huh?? What in the world is a shopper-tracking billboard?

Earlier this week, Senator Chuck Schumer requested that the Federal Trade Commission investigate Clear Channel Outdoor America’s RADAR initiative, which he alleges are “spying billboards.”

According to Senator Schumer, the Clear Channel Outdoor RADAR campaign “has tens of thousands of mobile and digital billboards across the United States and plans to provide advertisers with data on individuals who pass its billboards—some of which are equipped with small cameras that collect information” that the company will use to determine personal characteristics of individuals such as age and gender.

Senator Schumer argues that the “unsuspecting individuals” whose information is being captured by these spying billboards should be able to opt out of having their data collected in this manner. Clear Channel says its “RADAR campaign measurement solution is a partnership with privacy-compliant third-party data providers who are already collecting mobile data and have verified that they adhere to consumer-friendly business practices.” I am not sure what “consumer-friendly business practices are, but I am pretty sure consumers have no idea that their telecommunications provider is tracking their location through billboards and selling it.

At any rate, Senator Schumer is on the pulse of new technology and data collection and use and this is another reminder of how your location based service can be used. Check your location settings again and take control of how your data is accessed and used. To each his own, but be in control of the choice.

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