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    World Privacy Forum Releases Report on Digital Signage

    The World Privacy Forum’s Pam Dixon (a friend and colleague) has issued a fascinating report, “The One-Way-Mirror Society: Privacy Implications of the new Digital Signage Networks” (pdf). What’s “digital signage”? Most people have heard of the term connected with billboards or other screens that have cameras (and facial-recognition technology) to watch people watching ads in order to improve their marketing. This is supposed to help build a better billboard — one that is tailored specifically to the individual standing in front of it. (Here are a few cases in the U.S. and also in the U.K. Here’s my previous post raising privacy questions connected with digital signage.)

    Dixon expands the definition: “From simple people-counting sensors mounted on doorways to sophisticated facial recognition cameras mounted in flat video screens and end-cap displays, digital signage technologies are gathering increasing amounts of detailed information about consumers, their behaviors, and their characteristics … In the most sophisticated digital sign networks, for example, individuals watching a video screen will be shown different information based on their age bracket, gender, or ethnicity.”

    In her report, she details the substantial privacy risks that can arise when billboards have eyes.

    • Security Camera Footage: Repurposing footage for marketing and profit
    • Lack of Transparency or Notice to consumer
    • Lack of Consent, Opt-in, Opt-Out
    • Identifiable data capture – anonymity
    • Discrimination by Age, gender, and ethnicity
    • Data retention issues
    • Sensitive information
    • Information Captured on Children and Teens
    • Combination of offline and online data and data from digital signage

    She also sets out recommendations:

    • Better notice and disclosure to consumers
    • No one-sided industry self regulation
    • No price or other unfair discrimination
    • The full set of Fair Information Practices must apply for compiled information
    • Notice given to consumers about subpoenas for their information
    • Prohibitions on digital signage in bathrooms, health facilities, etc.
    • More robust consumer choices regarding data capture and use from signage
    • Special rules for collection and use of pictures and information about children

    Dixon makes an important point, “The privacy problems inherent in these networks are profound, and to date these issues have not been adequately addressed by anyone. Digital signage networks, if left unaddressed, will very likely comprise a new form of sophisticated marketing surveillance leading to abuses of the collected information.”

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