TAMPA (FOX 13) - A billboard company announced Monday it plans to use the cell phone data from passing drivers to help its advertisers better target their audiences.
Clear Channel Outdoor Americas launched the program called RADAR. It's partnering with several companies, including AT&T, to look compare the travel habits of anonymous drivers to the locations of their billboards.
"RADAR is Clear Channel Outdoor America's new data and analytics suite that helps advertisers and advertising agencies more effectively plan and buy our billboards, reach audience targets and measure the impact of their out of home campaigns," Clear Channel spokesperson Jason King told FOX 13 in an email.
King said only the data providers will have access to the information; Clear Channel and its partner companies will not even be able to identify genders or ages.
The data will be provided to the billboard company in the form of generalized groups.
"The data providers can inform us by sharing, for example, that I-95 in Florida has a high percentage of families travelling to Disney World that pass many of our billboards. And some of these travel paths may run contrary to where you might think these groups congregate or pass," King said.
Some cell phone users, meanwhile, would rather not even be anonymous statistics and are concerned about the bigger picture: how much data-tracking is too much?
"I don't allow any of the companies to see my data, filter my data, understand my data," said Greg Summers, who was traveling through Tampa and works in the Cyber Security department of a California-based company.
Tom Goldscheck, a cell phone technician at iHospital in Tampa, said there is a way drivers can make sure their travel-patterns are not being tracked: turn off their location settings are off. This can be done on iPhones and Androids.
"You have the option to turn it completely off which takes away GPS, Bluetooth and crowdsourced WiFi hotspots," Goldscheck said, adding the downside is that turning off GPS will also disable a driver's ability to use their maps applications.
Goldscheck also said people can really limit their overall data sharing by making sure apps never run in the background of their devices.
This can be done on an iPhone by shutting down "background app refresh," or, on an Android, choosing the "restrict background data" option.
"To be as private as possible, you can turn it off completely," Goldscheck said.
While Clear Channel's billboard data collection will be kept anonymous, there are some who have chosen to participate in the survey.
"There are 500,000 consumers who have opted into having their locations mapped by the provider," King said. "In exchange for that access, these consumers are financially compensated by the data provider for taking surveys that ask, 'Did you see the billboard [and], if so, what did you do after seeing it?'”