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[FYI] Radio 'sniffers' likened to fed e-surveillance


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Radio 'sniffers' likened to fed e-surveillance  

By Bob Brewin 05/29/2000 The privacy debate is likely to get more 
heated with the growing popularity of a wireless technology that 
detects which stations car radios are tuned to and feeds the 
information to advertisers via the Web.  

Mobiltrak Inc., a Birmingham, Ala.-based start-up firm, says it can 
help focus an advertising campaign by ascertaining which radio 
stations potential customers listen to in the vicinity of retail 

Mobiltrak uses FM radio "sniffers" that can detect, from several 
hundred feet away, the station to which a car radio is tuned. It can 
do that because every radio receiver is also a minitransmitter.  

"This gives us a large-scale, perfectly random sample from 10% to 20% 
of the passing traffic," said Jim Christian, Mobiltrak's CEO.  

Mobiltrak equipment, mounted in unobtrusive shelters about the size 
of household cable TV boxes, can sample as many as 100,000 listeners 
per installation per day, Christian said. The company operates in the 
Phoenix, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Toronto metropolitan markets and in 
more than 100 stand-alone retail locations outside of those markets.  

Privacy advocates said they view Mobiltrak's activities with alarm.  

David Banisar, the Silver Spring, Md.-based deputy director of 
Privacy International, said Mobiltrak is conducting the kind of 
"random electronic surveillance" carried out by the National Security 
Agency, which is the government's electronic-intelligence-gathering 


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