Will Elk Grove Vice Mayor Ly Support Clear Channel's Self-Described 'Creepy' Billboards?




If nothing else can be said about Elk Grove, it has a dysfunctional heritage and possibly a creepy future when it comes to signs and billboards.

Among the sign and billboards sprinkled in Elk Grove's history are the A-frame roadside sign controversy, sign wavers, and the original Elk Grove Auto Mall electronic sign. More recently was the new sign ordinance that brought us a massive billboard topped with a plastic elk, another one the says "Welcome to Elk Grove" as you are about to leave town, and of course, the wayfinding signs installed throughout the city to help out-of-town tourist find their way to noteworthy attractions like city hall and the auto mall.

The next step in Elk Grove's sign history could take what even its proponents acknowledge is a "creepy" turn. That would be the installation of billboards by Clear Channel Outdoor that monitor and gather data from cell phones of users who pass by one of their properties.

As first reported by the New York Times, the San Antonio-based advertising behemoth, in association with AT&T, is deploying technology in a program dubbed Radar that will gather cell phone data from users that pass near one of their billboards. According to the Times report, "By aggregating the trove of data from these companies, Clear Channel Outdoor hopes to provide advertisers with detailed information about the people who pass its billboards to help them plan more effective, targeted campaigns. With the data and analytics, Clear Channel Outdoor could determine the average age and gender of the people who are seeing a particular billboard in, say, Boston at a certain time and whether they subsequently visit a store."

In the same story, a Clear Channel representative said the data gathering from their 10,000-plus billboard will be kept anonymous, but acknowledged there are creepy elements in the program. Conversely, several privacy advocates and, at least one U.S. Senator have sounded an alarm over Clear Channel's data gathering operation.

It is not known if Clear Channel currently have any billboards locally; however, they have started making contributions to City Council Members. Last August, Elk Grove Vice Mayor Steve Ly accepted a $500 donation from Clear Channel Outdoors, and not coincidentally, urged City Manager Laura Gill in November (see video below) to start developing a digital billboard.

Interestingly, Democratic Ly has decided to align himself with an organization strongly associated with Republican Party, most notably former President George W. Bush. Clear Channel Outdoor is owned by iHeartMedia, formerly Clear Channel Communications, the company that organized at the behest of Bush many pro-war rallies in the lead-up to the ill-fated Iraq invasion, and the blacklisting of The Dixie Chicks for their criticism of the war and Bush.    

Ly did not respond to an email asking him if Clear Channel Outdoor were to install a billboard in Elk Grove, would he support their data gathering operation. Clear Channel has started their surveillance operation in 11 markets including New York and Los Angeles with other markets rolling-out later this year.    







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