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To enhance, protect and preserve the visual environment of Florida as mandated by the Scenic Beauty clause of the Florida Constitution.

Are digital billboards spying on us?
Senator Chuck Schumer thinks so...

Scenic Florida
Photo: Kathy Willens

Schumer calls for investigation into some ads

"A U.S. senator is calling for a federal investigation into an outdoor advertising company's latest effort to target billboard ads to specific consumers.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer has dubbed Clear Channel Outdoor Americas' so-called RADAR program 'spying billboards,' warning the service may violate privacy rights by tracking people's cell phone data via the ad space.
 
'A person's cellphone should not become a James Bond-like personal tracking device for a corporation to gather information about consumers without their consent,' Schumer, a Democrat, said in a statement ahead of a planned news conference Sunday in Times Square, where the company operates billboards.
 
But the company, which operates more than 675,000 billboards throughout the world, argues that characterization of its program is inaccurate, insisting it only uses anonymous data collected by other companies.
 
In a statement, company spokesman Jason King said the RADAR program is based on a years-old advertising technique that 'uses only aggregated and anonymized information' from other companies that certify they're following consumer protection standards.
 
King also provided The Associated Press a copy of a letter it sent earlier this year to another lawmaker who has similarly raised concerns about the ad service and consumer protections.
 
The company 'does not receive or collect personally identifiable information about consumers for use in Radar,' CEO Scott Wells wrote in a March letter to Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat. 'It's not necessary for the insights we are offering our advertising customers.'
 
The ad program is a partnership between Clear Channel and other companies, including AT&T and technology companies that collects location data from smartphone apps, company officials have said...
 
Clear Channel uses 'aggregate and anonymous mobile consumer information,' the company said. The program gives marketers a 'solution that provides a more accurate way to understand and target specific audience segments,' Clear Channel's vice president, Andy Stevens, said in a news release announcing the initiative in February.
 
But an investigation into the company is necessary because most people don't realize their location data is being mined, even if they agreed to it at some point by accepting the terms of service of an app that later sells their location information, Schumer said.

The Federal Trade Commission did not immediately respond requests for comment."

-- Associated Press


Grand Jury Releases Findings On Billboard Company's Illegal Tree Cutting Permits

In June 2009, Citizens for a Scenic Florida received an anonymous letter reporting that acres of trees were being cut down along I-10 and other state roads in the Panhandle without approved vegetation management plans or associated mitigation fees.  As it turned out, more than 2000 trees were "illegally removed" from state right-of-way along I-10 and other roads in the Panhandle.  The letter indicated that the trees were removed by Bill Salter Advertising Co. in order to create view zones for the company's billboards.  The letter also suggested that Salter Advertising had used the influence of then State Representative Greg Evers to broker a deal with FDOT leadership and that an FDOT employee had been ordered by the FDOT District Director of Operations James Rodgers to let Salter Advertising "do whatever they want."  In response to public records requests by Citizens for a Scenic Florida and the St. Pete Times, no documents provided by FDOT confirmed any communications on the subject between then Representative Evers, then FDOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos, and then FDOT Deputy Secretary Kevin Thibault.  In response to a public records request made in 2010 (by a citizen in St. Petersburg) for all emails to and from Secretary Kopelousos for a given period, among the thousands of documents provided by FDOT were emails revealing such communication between Evers, Kopelousos and Thibault. Other emails turned up later when the original records requests were repeated verbatim in 2011. This information was forwarded to the State Attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit and subsequently reviewed by a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury called it a debacle.

* Grand Jury Presentment (report)

* Grand Jury Presentment Attachments


* Citizens for a Scenic Florida Press Release


* Citizens for a Scenic Florida letter to Governor Scott


* Citizens for a Scenic Florida letter to FDOT Secretary

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FDOT letter (dated 2-22-2012) to Bill Salter Advertising, Inc.