The legal perspective of phone tracking and privacy issues

Have you ever got into a certain mall and immediately started receiving promotion messages from stores located only at this particular mall? Have you ever wondered how your phone “knows” that you went on vacation and started sending you all these messages from different beach clubs and restaurants? Have you ever checked your Facebook page only to find the person sitting on the next table at your favourite café popping up in the people you may know section? If these incidents sound familiar then you are one of the millions across the globe who are wondering if their phones have got a life of their own.

Of course everybody loves getting a free coupon, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t feel a little bit watched. Retailers, mobile apps and software programs are actually monitoring our phones all the time. And even though it could be for a good cause, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also get a little bit creepy.

Some retailers like Nordstrom installed a new video technology where surveillance cameras are set up to watch buyers and their behaviors. The cameras provide enough data that could be analysed to predict buying patterns in order to provide custom made coupons that will appeal to certain demographics. And while this could be very tempting, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that it is a violent invasion of privacy. People are being watched and they are unaware of it.

Stores get to benefit by rearranging their stores in order to be more appealing to potential customers. They send different buyers the exact coupons they are more likely to benefit from and this will definitely increase their sales and minimize their cost. But although this may sound good, the issue of consent remains unsolved. Although apps and software systems get access to your location and online preferences, there is absolutely nothing to prevent them from accessing more private information or data.

People’s privacy should be protected against violation by retailers by the Analytics Code of Conduct which encourages retailers to give the consumers the choice whether to share their information or not. They are required by this law to be more transparent about the data they collect. And although there is no specific definition of how this can be done, still companies are responsible for protecting their customers’ privacy. They should be given the opportunity to opt out of the system if they want to.

Sometimes employees are not aware that they are being watched around the clock. Employers get to monitor company owned cars and mobiles, and although this may sound like the company’s right but actually they get to monitor the employees’ behaviour and track them even when they are not at work. AT &T has a strict policy regarding its employees. An employee could be subject to termination if they received 3 speeding tickets in 3 years, whether they are using their private cars or company owned ones. And while some employers argue that installing GPS tracking systems allows them to get better access to their employees, companies should only limit its use to work hours.

Phone tracking is a big issue and like everything in life it has its good and bad sides. But laws and legislations are being issued to address the privacy concerns associated with its features. But are they strong and advanced enough to keep up with the ever evolving technology? Only time will tell.

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