Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, which has tens of thousands of billboards across the United States, will announce on Monday that it has partnered with several companies, including AT&T, to track people’s travel patterns and behaviors through their mobile phones.

    By aggregating the trove of data from these companies, Clear Channel Outdoor hopes to provide advertisers with detailed information about the people who pass its billboards to help them plan more effective, targeted campaigns. With the data and analytics, Clear Channel Outdoor could determine the average age and gender of the people who are seeing a particular billboard in, say, Boston at a certain time and whether they subsequently visit a store.

    . . .

    [T]he company was using the same data that mobile advertisers have been using for years, and showing certain ads to a specific group of consumers was not a new idea. “It’s easy to forget that we’re just tapping into an existing data ecosystem,” he said.


At first I thought this sounded very scary. Then I thought about it more and realized this is very similar to what is already going on with cookies/pixel tracking and advertisers on the internet right now, just in a physical sense. As I pondered this further I realized that may actually scare me more.

I'm used to the internet being an non-safe, non-private, place where every action is tracked and used to get me to buy stuff. Heck, I've made my fair share of money doing it. This billboard stuff could get weird though. I wonder if they plan to serve ads to specific people or if they will try to find a mean interest between people driving by at a certain time?

Now I'm imaging watching a movie in the future where Liam Neeson makes sure to avoid all of the billboards which are obviously tracking all of his movements. Will people try to use billboard data as an alibi? This could get real crazy real quick.

I'm glad I don't live in Clear Channel territory that's for sure.

posted by user-inactivated: 1294 days ago