A new report takes aim at the privacy concerns raised by digital billboards, examining how advertisers use the insights they capture from digital ads to tailor the messages served up to people on digital billboards.
Developed by Big Brother Watch, a non-partisan and non-profit civil liberties organization based in the UK, the report shows how companies can use facial recognition-enabled billboards to serve up targeted ads to pedestrians, representing a fresh affront to personal privacy.
According to the report, advertisers can use these recognition technologies to target consumers based on their GPS location, gender, age, and behavioral data. Some companies use high-quality cameras to detect human faces, noting their demographic differences and even their emotional states when serving up ads on nearby billboards. All of this data is captured anonymously, without the consumer’s consent, and without a means of opting out of the targeting.
As the report states, “Going about the world with the feeling that cameras are not just recording video but analysing you as a person to shape your reality is an uncomfortable concept. This data is being gathered not just to work out if an ad campaign was successful but to alter how people experience reality without their explicit consent, all in an attempt to make more sales.”
“Privacy issues are a growing area of concern for digital billboards, and it’s important that consumers understand how their behaviors are being tracked and used by advertising companies without their consent,” said Scenic America President Mark Falzone. “Communities that want to put up digital billboards need to ask themselves if they really want to introduce a new threat to their privacy while also compromising their safety, scenic qualities, and property values with digital signage.”