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Creepy ‘Smart’ Billboards that Track Your Phone and Scan Your Face are now on British High Streets


Billboards that are watching you as you go about your daily life are now a frightening reality.


High street surveillance.

The hi-tech billboards not only harvest your mobile phone’s data as you walk by, but also gather biometric data with hidden cameras that scan your face and walk, all without your knowledge or permission.


Targeted advertising.

The technology is being used by companies to target advertising. Facial detection algorithms are being aggregated with phone data harvesting all to ensure that you see the ‘right’ advert based on your personal tastes and current mood.


This type of surveillance advertising has rapidly evolved with the advance in technology. All done without the knowledge or permission of the public.


You’ve probably already been targeted.

The campaign group Big Brother Watch have been investigating advertising surveillance and has found that millions of phones in the UK are already being monitored by intrusive advertising firms using GPS location data and data harvesting techniques whilst Mobile phone networks are themselves creating and selling huge datasets based on surveillance of their customers.


Personal data is seen as the new ‘oil’. Companies are mining thousands of bits of data about you every minute of every day, in increasingly underhand and morally dubious ways. The 'Internet of things', that’s smart devices connected to the internet, such as these billboards, are now collecting massive amounts of data about you and this is set to increase as more devices become ‘smart’ over the next few years.


Where is the Government in all this?

Anyone thinking the government should be protecting their right to privacy and legislating against the intrusive tech are going to be disappointed. The government isn't legislating against this ‘theft’ of personal and private data, far from it, they are encouraging it and plan to use it as part of a British social credit system similar to the Chinese model. A document that sets out the plan can be seen here.


Can you protect yourself from being tracked and harvested?

Big Brother Watch have written a handy guide preventing this and protecting your privacy.


iPhone Users

  1. Open “Settings” and click on “Privacy”

  2. In the Privacy menu, scroll down and click on “ Apple Advertising”

  3. Toggle “Personalised Ads” to OFF (grey)

  4. Press “Privacy” in the top left corner and scroll up to “Tracking”.

  5. Toggle OFF “Allow Apps to Request to Track”

  6. Press “Privacy” in the top left corner, click on “Location Services” and either turn OFF or review which apps can use your location and when – only let apps you trust use your location

Please note, some of the steps outlined above could vary depending upon your version of iOS.


Additional tips

Always use the “hide my email” option if using Apple ID to sign in to applications. If any app asks for permission to use your location click “no” unless you trust it and there is a good reason for it, such as getting directions. Even then, you may wish to consider only allowing your location to be used while you use the app.


Android Users

  1. Open Settings

  2. Go to Google and in the menu that shows up, select “Ads”

  3. Turn ON “Opt out of Ad personalisation”

  4. Tap “Reset advertising ID” to create a new identifier for your phone that now has a do not track request. There may also be a button here to disable personalised ads, if so click it.

  5. Return to settings and find “Privacy” or “Security & Privacy”.

  6. In this menu find location settings and scroll down to system services

  7. Tap system services and turn “Location Based Ads” OFF

  8. While using your phone be careful to only give permissions for apps to use your location when necessary and read their terms to see how your data is used.

  9. If any app asks for permission to track or share your data with third parties, click no unless you have a good reason not to.

Please note that some of these steps may vary based on the version of Android installed on your phone.


General tips

Try to read the terms of apps you use and deny permissions unless you trust the app and know how it plans to use your data.


The digital world strives to create black boxes, trapping users into a surveillance assemblage in the name of convenience and speed. This is not the first time that large corporations are using data and artificial intelligence to alter our everyday experiences—-from buying groceries to calling a cab—-into profit-making business use-cases which are calculated and curated. To break out of this network, we must continue to learn about ways to protect our privacy online, to protect our lives offline.

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