Skip to comments.(Supreme) Court Case Asks if ‘Big Brother’ Is Spelled GPS
Posted on 09/12/2011 6:10:39 AM PDT by Libloather
Court Case Asks if Big Brother Is Spelled GPS
By ADAM LIPTAK
Published: September 10, 2011
WASHINGTON The precedent is novel. More precisely, the precedent is a novel.
In a series of rulings on the use of satellites and cellphones to track criminal suspects, judges around the country have been citing George Orwells 1984 to sound an alarm. They say the Fourth Amendments promise of protection from government invasion of privacy is in danger of being replaced by the futuristic surveillance state Orwell described.
Last month, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn turned down a government request for 113 days of location data from cellphone towers, citing Orwellian intrusion and saying the courts must begin to address whether revolutionary changes in technology require changes to existing Fourth Amendment doctrine.
The Supreme Court is about to do just that. In November, it will hear arguments in United States v. Jones, No. 10-1259, the most important Fourth Amendment case in a decade. The justices will address a question that has divided the lower courts: Do the police need a warrant to attach a GPS device to a suspects car and track its movements for weeks at a time?
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
Here’s the real debate. The police want to use GPS without a warrant. They want to be able to attach a GPS device to your car and track you without getting a warrant. Which is how they have it today.
I believe they should have to get a warrant. And in cases where they are moving too quickly to get one (like with a terrorist case)...they have a judge on call that they can call and get one approved in minutes.
They should need a warrant. We cannot allow modern technology to undermine our freedom. This country needs to stay true to the founding fathers’ values.
Yeah, my car might be in a public space, but it’s still my property. The cops should need a warrant to attach a device to my car to track it.
At this point it’s no longer a question of “staying true” to our founder’s values, but rather getting back on a track that has been badly lost. 20,000 gun laws, militarized police forces, civil asset forfeiture, a thousand alphabet soup agencies that rule by decree, a tax code for enacting social microengineering at an unthinkable level, hundreds of “international police force” (military) operations around the world, including picking up the tab for defense for dozens of sovereign countries ... “staying true” to our founder’s values is not in the picture any more.
The flip side is do the police need a warrant to follow a suspect for weeks? If not then I would say no.
But, that then does leave it open to just who can the police stick these devices on? Will authorities soon require all vehicles to have tracking devices installed for their (the authorities) ‘convenience’?
In my view this is a very close question (which is why the SCOTUS will review). It is similar to the public surveillance camera issue, as I see it. There is no doubt that the police could sit atop polls where cameras are now located and record (in writing, for example) the activities they see below, and this would not violate the 4th Amendment. Similarly, the police could stake out the location where a party’s car is located and follow the car whereever it went, again without violating the 4th Amendment. The only difference is attaching the device to the car. This may be trespass to personal property, but it gives no greater information than if the police simply followed someone around— just at a far lesser cost and without risk of avoiding the police “tail.” I’d lean toward allowing it.
If the cops succeed with this precedent, what stops them from installing video/audio surveillance in your car without a warrant?
The police would not have a 24/7 surveillance "tail" on a person without a damn good reason to justify the expense. Putting a cheap GPS tracker could (and would) be done on a whim. Large potential for abuse.
You posted: The police would not have a 24/7 surveillance “tail” on a person without a damn good reason to justify the expense. Putting a cheap GPS tracker could (and would) be done on a whim. Large potential for abuse.
I agree about the expense part of it, but I don’t think that creates constitutional issues. I imagine that some “tails” have been done on a whim or for some improper purpose, but that probably doesn’t make them unconstitutional. This could be dealt with better by laws prohibiting law enforcement from using these methods, if that is what society wants. Perhaps a middle ground of “reasonable suspicion” vs. probable cause could be required by law.
“But, that then does leave it open to just who can the police stick these devices on? Will authorities soon require all vehicles to have tracking devices installed for their (the authorities) convenience?”
It WILL lead to that...and then a database of everyone’s movements. How secure will that database be? Will others have easy access to my movements...and whether I’m on vacation, at work...meeting a politician to complain about the mayor...etc?
I don’t want to be part of that world.
“The only difference is attaching the device to the car. This may be trespass to personal property, but it gives no greater information than if the police simply followed someone around just at a far lesser cost and without risk of avoiding the police tail. Id lean toward allowing it.”
In a perfect world you would require a warrant for police even looking at someone take a few footsteps. However the courts understand that databases of everyone’s movements could NEVER be developed with GPS and related technologies. The question is how comfortable are we with that database.
Would it be OK if the police just clipped the GPS to your belt loop then?
Of course police must have a warrant to attach a gps device to a car.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
What don’t they understand about “secure in their...effects” and “no Warrants...but upon probably cause”
This is elementary civics class stuff.
At least...it’s elementary freedom stuff.
Extending the premise, would you then allow the government to simply have you embed a small chip in your body for tracking purposes? After all, they could easily just follow you around and that wouldn't be a violation, would it?
I think the warrant should be required regardless of the privacy merits of the suspect. It may be picking nits, but the GPS would necessarily inform the authorities of the car's existence on private property, violating the 4th virtually every time the suspect left the public roadways. Even if following the suspect is justified, if he drives onto my property the police are then surveilling me as well as him. They are not entitled to physically follow him onto my property if not invited, so why should their tracking device be allowed?
The key language is “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Following and observing someone is neither a search nor a seizure. I don’t think the 4th Amendment is violated by this, but I could understand passing a law forbidding the police from using such tactics, if that is what the PEOPLE want.
I’d like to say the following, before the tinfoilers pile on:
As an electronics engineer and inventor of a fairly well-known (in the industry) GPS tracking algorithm, I can tell you that your little TomTom or Garmin or whatever road-map or handheld GPS does NOT send your position to the government.
Your iPhone may, however.
That is all.
When you have to place a GPS on someone’s vehicle in order to search out his whereabouts, then it is a search, and it should require a warrant.
JMHO, of course.
To me it is no different than drugging a guy and shooting him up with a tracking implant.
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