Big Brother is Listening to You: Digital Eavesdropping in the Advertising Industry

By: Dacia Green

In the Digital Age, information is more accessible than ever. Unfortunately, that accessibility has come at the expense of privacy. Now, more and more personal information is in the hands of corporations and governments, for uses not known to the average consumer. Although these entities have long been able to keep tabs on individuals, with the advent of virtual assistants and “always-listening” technologies, the ease by which a third party may extract information from a consumer has only increased.

The stark reality is that lawmakers have left the American public behind. While other countries have enacted consumer privacy protections, the United States has no satisfactory legal framework in place to curb data collection by greedy businesses or to regulate how those companies may use and protect consumer data. This Article contemplates one use of that data: digital advertising. Inspired by stories of suspiciously well-targeted advertisements appearing on social media websites, this Article additionally questions whether companies have been honest about their collection of audio data. To address the potential harms consumers may suffer as a result of this deficient privacy protection, this Article proposes a framework wherein companies must acquire users’ consent and the government must ensure that businesses do not use consumer information for harmful purposes.

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Cite: 16 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 352

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