The Law of E-Tracking: Is Your Phone Too Smart, Your Media Too Social, and Your Advertising Misbehaving?

Vol. 8 No. 3

Ruth Hill Bro chairs the Section’s Membership and Diversity Committee and served as the 2008–2009 Section Chair. She can be reached at


If you feel like somebody is always watching you, you may be right. Whether you are surfing the Internet, using a smartphone app to find the lowest gas price, streaming the latest movie to your laptop, tweeting about the presidential election, or using your iPad to put items in an electronic shopping cart, in all likelihood, someone is watching you.

Just about everything you do (where you go, what you buy, what catches your interest) is worth something to someone. And the more we use increasingly powerful computing ability and electronic connectivity, the more that businesses, employers, and total strangers are learning about us. Yet companies in the tracking business are increasingly finding that consumer groups, regulators, and media are watching them too.

Every day seems to bring another headline reporting tracking via search engines, smartphones, sniffing software, social media platforms, and the like. And with every new technological development that enables tracking, the question is posed whether new laws are needed to protect privacy. Yet, as we have seen with the “privacy” signs that we hang on hotel doors, the flip side of privacy is “service”—better information can lead to better service, which many of us find acceptable if we are aware of what is being collected and how it will be used.

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