Massachusetts Court contemplates website tracking laws

Massachusetts’ top court weighs whether a 1960s law banning eavesdropping on phone calls applies to website tracking without consent. Two hospitals face accusations of breaching the Massachusetts Wiretap Act by sharing user browsing data with companies like Google and Meta.


Massachusetts’ highest court is deliberating whether a law enacted in the 1960s to prevent eavesdropping on phone conversations and telegraphs should extend to website operators who gather user browsing data without explicit consent.

There’s a leaning towards a broad interpretation of the law, which might result in companies being held accountable for past tracking activities. The case revolves around two hospitals accused of breaching the Massachusetts Wiretap Act by permitting third parties to collect data from their websites.

The plaintiff who filed the lawsuit, Kathleen Vita, alleged user browsing data was shared with entities like Google and Meta without authorization. Although the hospitals claim that such tracking is standard business practice, the court is skeptical of this defense.

Why does it matter?

The case’s resolution could significantly impact website operators and the utilization of widely-used analytics tools. Various industry groups closely follow the proceedings, concerned that a ruling unfavorable to website operators could expose them to legal liability. Ultimately, the court’s decision may influence future regulations relating to online privacy and data collection protocols.