The tracker was first started in 1955 by Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) after an advertisement in Colorado Springs misprinted the phone number of Santa Claus. The phone number turned out to be CONAD's Commander-in-Chief's operations "hotline."
The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff use CONAD's radars to give the children an update of where Santa was.
In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created a bi-national air defense command for North America called the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, and they took over the tradition of tracking Santa.
The tracker, among other features, has a map of the globe and follows Santa as he makes his way from city to city, giving his estimated time of arrival.
NORAD says they're "the only organization that has the technology, the qualifications, and the people to do it," but Google is following the jolly old elf, too.