Schumer Calls for Investigation of Billboard Company That Tracks Data

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) speaks during the 30th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. in the Brooklyn borough of New York January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Senator Charles Schumer. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Sen. Charles Schumer is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate an advertising research technique that uses mobile phone data to learn about people who pass by billboards.

An outdoor advertising company, Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, says it works with partner companies to match aggregated location data. It can then cater ads to specific consumers based on the demographics of passers-by and determine if the people eventually end up at the advertisers’ stores.

The company uses aggregated data from partners, including AT&T. It says individual consumers cannot be identified.

Schumer, a New York Democrat, wants the FTC to investigate whether it is a deceptive trade practice because he says most people don’t realize their location data is being monitored.

In a statement released on Sunday, Clear Channel Outdoor Americas spokesman Jason King said that its RADAR program used for billboard advertising has existed for years and is based on anonymous information.

Clear Channel Outdoor operates more than 675,000 billboards throughout the world.

A FTC representative hasn’t responded to a request for comment on Schumer’s proposed probe.


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