By on September 22, 2009

Smile! You're on Castrol Camera!

An advertising campaign in the UK began using automated number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to identify passing vehicles and create personalized advertisements. The motor oil giant Castrol UK Limited yesterday activated a set of five electronic billboards in London that flash an image of the exact type of Castrol-brand motor oil appropriate for the nearest vehicle. “The right oil for your car is: Castrol Magnatec 5W-30 A1,” the advertisement reads for eight seconds as a Jaguar with the license plate 1DFL drives past. The roadside digital billboards, seventeen feet wide and eight feet high, are owned by Clear Channel Outdoor. Castrol’s campaign added the license scanning technology which ties into the official UK Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) database. The agency provides private registration information to just about any company willing to pay the desired fee. According to Castrol, this particular campaign does not store any information about what vehicles or drivers pass the sign.


“The majority of car owners have little understanding of the purpose of oil in an engine, and as a result are using oil which is not beneficial to their type and age of car, resulting in higher maintenance costs and fuel consumption,” Ali Gee, head of consultancy at Three Monkeys, Castrol’s advertising firm, explained in a statement. “Our campaign will help to convey the benefits of ensuring the use of the right oil for your car.”

ANPR cameras are used by law enforcement and private companies throughout the US and the UK with no established legal framework limiting their use. Castrol’s website offers more detailed information about a vehicle’s specifications based upon its license plate.

[courtesy thenewspaper.com]

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31 Comments on “UK Billboards Equipped with License Plate Spy Cameras...”


  • avatar
    moawdtsi

    Was it Minority Report where everywhere Tom Cruise would walk in public spaces cameras would identify him and then advertisements tailored to him would pop up on screens? Ah yes, here it is, answered my own question. Our future?

  • avatar
    Areitu

    moawdtsi :

    You beat me to the Minority Report reference…

  • avatar
    Dave

    I know this is political, but the UK govt is obsessed with spying on it’s citizns (subjuects of HM), and with raising money by what ever means possible, so it’s actually no suprise they sell “private” information to whoever has the necessary cash, (BTW, I live in the UK). What is dissapointing is that a company as reputable as Castrol would do this.

    All I hope is that the public vote with their wallet and avoid Castrol to send the message that this is NOT a good idea.

    One lives in hope.

  • avatar
    Dave

    I know this is political, but the UK govt is obsessed with spying on it’s citizns (subjuects of HM), and with raising money by what ever means possible, so it’s actually no suprise they sell “private” information to whoever has the necessary cash, (BTW, I live in the UK). What is dissapointing is that a company as reputable as Castrol would do this.

    All I hope is that the public vote with their wallet and avoid Castrol to send the message that this is NOT a good idea.

    One lives in hope.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    If this is ever implemented here, I will purposely NEVER buy the product advertised out of pure spite. I can determine which oil I need on my own, thank you very much. I am tired of the use of technology just for technology’s sake. I mean Infiniti has a warning system to tell me when I’m straying out of my lane? WTF? Whats next? A warning when I get in my car to tell me when my zipper is down? Maybe I want it that way! You can’t sell if you don’t advertise! (I am however not showing it on a full sized billboard )

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    I’m just shocked to see Ali G working for an ad agency.

  • avatar
    MBella

    Even though I don’t agree with this because of the whole big brother can of worms this may open, I still think it is pretty cool.

  • avatar

    I, for one, welcome our new Castrol oil overlords

    (it had to be said)

    Neat Technology++

    Can we use it against SUV drivers, not that there would be many in the UK. Some kind of strobing “Get a car!” message. I despise SUVs.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Ali Gee, head of consultancy at Three Monkeys

    I loved his HBO series

    According to Castrol, this particular campaign does not store any information about what vehicles or drivers pass the sign.

    Why of course not, why on earth would data be retained? I can’t think of a reason why a company would want to know who drives past it’s billboards, or where they live, what they drive, how much money they make, who they screw, or any other personally identifiable information.

    Nothing to see, move along.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    The sad thing is they are right, most people cannot state in clear terms what it does inside an engine and what to know as a consumer, other than “have it serviced at dealer (or jiffy lube)”

    Having said this most people correctly don’t care (not car people) and wont respond to the ad. I wonder if its a money maker for them.
    .

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    It broadcasts the plate number? You cannot be serious.

    Gigantic f*****g distraction, anyone? If you really want me to crash my car that badly, why not post up a picture of my grandmother?

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    While the ad itself is no big deal, the fact that the data is so readily available is disturbing. But this is just another step in the direction of erosion of privacy.

    Ever hear of “Insurance Score”? It is basically the insurance equivalent of a credit score. But it is much more offensive because of the seemingly unrelated nature of the data. Credit information being made available to a lender makes perfect sense, after all your recent past is a good indicator of your responsibility with credit and credit is what you are actually “buying”. But what about buying insurance? How can your credit score relate to your likelihood of having a homeowners claim? Somehow the profiteers at most insurance providers have found a way to relate the two. Why should the insurance industry be allowed to review my credit in the first place? This should be illegal, pure and simple. When a score of 785, no balances and no late payments -ever- is just not “good enough” to be a preferred customer, something is seriously wrong. The lack of privacy is appalling and nobody seems to care. And once the Supreme Court rules that corporations can make direct contributions to candidates, the politician will become even more beholden to corporate whores who are destroying the middle class.

  • avatar
    Dr. Remulac

    @ Superbadd and GS650G

    yous beat me too it, much respect.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    If I was put on the spot, I couldn’t tell you what my license plate said/says from the driver’s seat. I just don’t think about it. I’d have to refer to the registration papers.

    I have enough trouble remembering our wedding anniversary.

    How many people can confidently launch into a recital of their license plate? When not driving my own cars, I probably drive 6-11 different cars a year in 2-4 countries.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Next thing you know, the billboard will know how long since your last oil change.

  • avatar
    geggamoya

    Around here, in Finland, i can just send an SMS with a regplate and receive the cars make and model, insurance company, if it has passed the yearly inspection, and the owners name. Costs about 1,50€.

    Unless of course the owner has informed the DVLA equivalent that they do not want to share this information.

    I also do the same search online dozens of time each day at work.

  • avatar
    another_pleb

    I can envisage people repeatedly driving past these things to see their number-plate flashed at them, a bit like those signs which flash up your speed that make some people I’ve seen want to beat their “High Score”.

    I don’t think this ANPR technology is anything new though. A few years ago, I visited a large shopping mall in Dundrum, Co. Dublin. They had touch screen terminals could show you the location of your car in the multi-storey if you gave your number-plate.

    “In Communist Russia, billboard look at you!” oh wait…

  • avatar
    matt

    Who would have thought that Clear Channel would be involved…

  • avatar

    California has an open database that ties plate number to vehicle year, make, model and test history.

    “5BBM229 – The correct time for your car’s smog check is NOW”

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    The major outrage is that the license and registry database is used to look up the vehicle’s make, model and year, but a privacy-sparing way could be right around the corner.

    When the backlash from this initiative gets loud and angry enough, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for the technology to recognize the make and model of car from its shape – and perhaps the badges on the rear (if they’re in place).

  • avatar
    shaker

    The pinnacle of this tech is when a requirement of ‘citizenship’ is a barcode tattooed on one’s forehead… no, too obvious. An RFID “installed” at birth – ahh yes.

  • avatar
    hal

    I like how this highlights how much information is collected as you are tracked on your daily rounds by cell phone signals, credit card use, number plates… there really is no anonymity / privacy left, these billboards just make it explicit.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    “Say, Mister 1XYZ234, is that your wife I see you with?”

  • avatar
    ott

    I give it 2 weeks before the public outcry becomes too loud for Castrol and Clear Channel to bear. Don’t be surprised if you have driven past one of these signs when you receive a nice piece of junk mail with a coupon attached about a week afterwards.

    fincar1: Hahahaha! Good one.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The next phase: the computer ties into the credit card company’s database, and starts running ads for “personal pleasure devices” for people who shop a lot at porno sites.

  • avatar
    WildBill

    powerpeecee: Can we use it against SUV drivers, not that there would be many in the UK. Some kind of strobing “Get a car!” message. I despise SUVs.

    SUVs don’t despise you… where’s the love for all things “car”? I have two SUVs and a truck, it’s what I need and use daily. I hope you aren’t one of those liberal types that want to tell others what to do with their lives… God knows we have too many of those around now.

  • avatar
    dean

    golden2husky: you mentioned the problem, unwittingly, in your recitation of your good credit. No balances. Credit card companies don’t make their money from people who pay their cards off fully every month. They want people who carry a balance, pay interest, but continue to make regular payments. If you want your credit to go from merely good to excellent, then carry a balance once in a while for a month, then pay it off.

  • avatar

    Wildbill, Yeah, I’m one of those liberal types who will tell you not to needlessly, frivolously waste resources.

    You: “Sustainability Hurrrrrrr What’s that Hurrrrrr”

    I simply cannot stand this “the world is my oyster and I shall take as much as I please” attitude. Go back to your cave, cave man.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Paul Niedermeyer :
    Next thing you know, the billboard will know how long since your last oil change.

    It could get much much worse… like appointing and charging the oil change… for the customer’s “convenience”.

    Down here, such prostitution of private information would be a feast for thieves, hijackers, scammers and even the government.

    Right now the databases “filter” from say a phone company and is sold illegally in CD form in the streets.

    Sometimes is good to be in the 3rd world (not so much technology)

  • avatar
    HLGCDT

    Unfortunately, license plate scanning is just the tip of the iceberg. The Center for Democracy & Technology recently wrote an article on new ways that digital billboards are monitoring consumers. That article is here: http://blog.cdt.org/2009/09/10/digital-signage-and-consumer-privacy/ This sort of surveillance-for-profit raises serious privacy issues. The UK government is scanning license plates for security and traffic congestion, and now the advertising industry is mirroring those practices for targeted marketing. At what point does privacy cease being an expectation and instead becomes a fundamental right?


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