Smart Billboards: They're Watching You

Advertisers use surveillance technology to gather data on passers-by
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2008 7:18 AM CDT
Smart Billboards: They're Watching You
Billboards on Broadway, New York City.   (Getty Images)

Advertisers are bringing billboards into the 21st century by fitting them with cameras that record details used to determine a passer-by's age, sex, and race, the New York Times reports. Companies plan to use the technology to tailor the advertising to the person standing in front of it. The tiny cameras, which send info back to a central database, are hard for passers-by to spot.

Marketers say the technology will help them deliver more effective ads, but the billboards that watch back are raising some privacy issues. “I think a big part of why it’s accepted is that people don’t know about it,” a civil liberties lawyer said. “You could make them conspicuous,” he said of the cameras. “But nobody really wants to do that because the more people know about it, the more it may freak them out." (More billboards stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.