Tracking Technology, Privacy and Accountability: Regulatory Challenges in the EU

Hartmut Aden

Tracking technologies, mostly based on the Global Positioning System (GPS), make the local position of a device visible for the users and for others who have access to the data. The widespread use of mobile devices connected to the internet, e.g. smart phones and tablet computers, has massively expanded the number of applications based on GPS. Many applications not only facilitate the users' orientation, but also track where the device and its user have been in the past.The use of tracking technology therefore produces data that has become interesting for big data analysts for marketing purposes, e.g. in order to know how customers move in shops and shopping malls. Secret services and law enforcement agencies, are also interested to have access to this data, for example in order to know where a person that is suspected to be involved in terrorist attacks or to have committed a crime has been in a relevant period of time.Therefore, the use of tracking technology leads to the question of how privacy, data protection and accountability can be adequately taken into account for the use of tracking data. The paper asks which national, European supranational and international regulatory approaches can be developed in order to allow security agencies to use the data in order to combat (only) serious security threats, but to protect individuals against the misuse of tracking data for surveillance purposes by private actors and state agencies. It is based on the hypothesis that "classical" regulation (i.e. by law) and technological solutions should be combined in order to protect the individuals' rights adequately when they use tracking technologies.

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