Russian billboard selling illegal goods hides itself from the cops

The ad agency says it's not a stunt—but it totally is.

Mar 1, 2020, 2:38 am*



Patrick Howell O'Neill

If necessity is the mother of all inventions, Russian sanctions have created an awful lot of pressing needs.

An advertising company in Russia recently created a billboard for selling illegal goods that deploys facial recognition technology to spot police uniforms. When it spots an officer, the billboard transform into an ad for a completely legal doll store, AdWeek reports.

The Don Giulio Salumeria grocery store sells authentic Italian food to hungry Russians in Moscow. Thing is, the country currently bans food imported from the United States and European Union, but Don Giulio has it in droves.

The trick is advertising the mozzarella to millions of Muscovites without getting in trouble with authorities.

“My business is not so great right now because no one believes it’s possible to buy original Italian products in Russia in these times,” Giulio said in a video about the billboard. “That’s why we need to advertise.”

The ad agency, The 23, “insists this was a real stunt,” according to AdWeek.

The idea is fantastically interesting, but the execution of it is fatally flawed. Even in the video, which one assumes would show off the technology at its best, a police officer is practically already walking past the illegal advertisement when it changes to the doll shop display. 

A cop on the look out would have already seen the problem. In fact, later in the video, cops do notice the issue because the billboard only changes when they’re within four or five feet of it.

Then there’s the issue of a company scanning everyone’s faces. What could go wrong?

“Once such data is in the hands of a cloud service provider, there’s always the possibility that it can be subpoenaed away by a (very data-hungry) government,” Lisa Vaas wrote at Naked Security. 

Would advertising firms suddenly became much bigger targets for hackers because they’d have even more information about everyone who dared walk around in cities?

If nothing else, we can soon look forward to a future where we all wear camouflage for our walk to the corner store.

H/T Naked Security | Screenshot via YouTube

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*First Published: Jun 1, 2015, 12:59 pm