UK using smart billboards to secretly ad target shoppers


Surveillance cameras in shopping center billboards are being used to spy on you so you can be targeted with the “correct” advertisements.

The giant screens contain technology that can work out your age, gender and even what mood you’re in at the time.

How long customers look at certain adverts can also be monitored and the adverts being displayed can change depending on who is walking past.

The Sunday Times has discovered 50 of these screens so far across the UK, including several screens at Westfield shopping center in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

Companies promoting the system have claimed that it complies with the UK’s data protection laws because no individually identifying information is being collected or stored.

Therefore, there is no legal requirement to tell shoppers that they are being filmed.

Ocean Outdoor was one of the first companies to use this kind of public surveillance technology.

It’s LookOut system can be found in lots of the tracking billboards in the UK.

The company’s chief executive Tim Bleakley told The Sunday Times: “We pioneered a facial detection technology which identifies the characteristics of the face to allow you to talk to advertisers about mood, gender, emotion and those kind of things.

“We can measure the level of happiness or sadness. We can measure the dwell time.”

The creepy tech has even been used in supermarkets like Waitrose and Bleakley described how pleased one of the supermarket’s executives was when ‘customer happiness levels’ rose as fake snow was sprayed in the store.

The billboard cameras spend all day analysing shoppers and can tell advertisers what kinds of people were shopping and when.

Shoppers can also be inserted into adverts as part of a feature called ‘interactive advertising’ and one promotional video from Ocean Outdoor implied that the technology can determine how many ‘affluent’ people are in the area.

It’s video showing one of its screens at Canary Wharf stated that 49 percent of people walking past that day were “affluent” and earned “over £100,000 ($129,000).”

Ocean Outdoor also has technology that can be used on roadside billboards to determine the price of a passing card so that adverts for expensive things can be shown to people who it thinks have a lot of money.

French firm Quividi also sells the facial detection technology and says that images of people that its’ cameras collect are processed in milliseconds but then deleted forever once their basic profile information has been taken.

The company says it can determine someones gender with 90 percent accuracy and age within a five year age bracket.

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