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Are Using Cameras on Billboards to Measure Data and Demographics Privacy Violations?

Thinking of or Using Cameras to Observe and Analyze Traffic? Read This

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Explicit permission needed for billboards with cameras —
Dutch Privacy Authority




Observing or analyzing people, crowds, vehicles, and similar objects in real-time, through cameras embedded in billboards and similar advertising structures, has been ruled by the Netherlands as only permit-able under certain conditions. Those conditions do not look favorable for companies using cameras to ‘measure’ data and demographics of traffic passing OOH structures.

The Netherlands’ privacy regulator, known as the Dutch Data Protection Authority AP, stated yesterday, permission is required from the people passing by, in order to comply with GDPR.  The  Dutch directive covers procedures involving the processing of personal data.

The Dutch Data AP is necessitating the Out of Home industry take measures to comply with the privacy law.  The  request requires explicit permission for image registration.  The Netherlands’ regulations could find its way across the Atlantic.

The Netherlands’ regulations could find its way across the Atlantic.

While no such regulations are in place in the US, one can not help but wonder if legislation is in our future.
As a starter, California passed a broad sweeping privacy bill yesterday. The new CA law ⇐(Click here for MediaPost article) expansively defines personal information including names, email addresses, IP addresses, web-browsing history and search history. It could impact other states in regulating companies using an individual’s personal information such as audience measurement, facial detection and recognition, vehicle detection and recognition, gesture recognition, people counting, demographic analysis including age, gender, emotion, and dwell time.

The California law is not clear if it covers other use, such as billboard cameras.

More cameras are being used to detect ‘traffic’ 

OOH owner operators are increasingly using cameras in billboards to count people or to match ads to passerby characteristics. This can be done indirectly, by showing advertisements at specific times, relevant to groups of people passing the OOH at a specific moment. Owners could use the system to tailor creative directly to the characteristics of a passerby.  For example, if a camera registers someone is wearing glasses, the billboard could show a suitable ad about eye-wear. 

Personal Data Use

The rub is, as people are recognizable, this information or data is a matter of personal privacy, as defined under GDPR.  A billboard operator must have permission to process this data.

The conditions for permission from the public are described as:
1. Description of the use of the data must open and specific;
2. The OOH Owner must be clear for what the specific data someone is giving their permission to use.
3.  It must be clear for what the specific purpose the advertiser will use the data for.

According to the AP,  compliance must met by requesting permission from a passerby via an intermediate step, for example with a QR code, beacon or through an app.

The AP letter

The Dutch AP issued a letter explaining the rules in the privacy legislation for the processing of personal data via cameras in billboards. The Netherlands is requiring every organization to comply.  The over reaching goal is for personal data to remain protected.


Read more here ⇒  Explicit permission needed for billboards with cameras 



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  1. Todd Hansen says

    Cameras on Billboards .There are cameras everywhere now, who cares .Plenty of data already .

    Why don’t we talk about sales .Everyone wants to talk about everything else but sales .

    We better figure out the sales part of the OOH industry ,

    You never know there might be a time that cars don’t have windows and no longer a need for our space .

  2. Bill Board says

    Agreed Todd Hansen, more attention needs to be given to the art and science of Sales.
    Too many believe if we only had the right data, with the right software, the magic silver bullet, OOH sales would see immediate improvement and answer everyone’s financial dreams.

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