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Court Rules GPS Tracking Legal For Law Officers 293

Posted by Zonk
from the so-keep-yer-nose-clean dept.
Via Engadget (which does a good job of explaining the case), an anonymous reader passed us a link to a GPS Tracking Systems Blog post. The site, which reports regularly on GPS-related news, has word that on-the-sly GPS tracking is legal for officers of the law. A 7th circuit court of appeals ok'd the use of a GPS device in apprehending a criminal. Though the defendant's lawyers argued on fourth amendment grounds, the judge found GPS tracking did not warrant an 'unlawful search and seizure'. The judge did warn against 'wholesale surveillance' of the population, though, so ... that's some comfort.
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Court Rules GPS Tracking Legal For Law Officers

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  • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Monday February 05, 2007 @07:33PM (#17897522) Homepage Journal

    The summary left out the most important tidbit of information in this case: The police did not have a warrant for their actions.

    If the police have reasonable cause to suspect that someone is up to no good and they go through due process to get a warrant, I have no problem with them using GPS as a tool in their arsenal of crime-fighting weapons.

    However, I have a major issue with the police, with no reason to think I might be doing something wrong and no warrant to back it up, putting a GPS receiver on my car just in case I do do something wrong.

    The judge did warn against 'wholesale surveillance' of the population, though.

    The judge in this case was a complete and total idiot. He can warn all he wants to, but he just set a legal precedent that says they can if they want to. There is now absolutely nothing stopping the police from GPS-bugging anyone at any time for any reason, or even with a complete lack of a reason. Who here thinks that even though the police can GPS-bug people without a warrant that they simply will choose not to do so because the right thing to do, in the spirit of the Constitution, is to get a warrant first?

    Yeah, I don't either. If you give the government that kind of power, it has shown throughout history—including many incidents in recent U.S. history—that it will not only use it, but push it even further.

    If I recall correctly, the rationale behind the original decision was that police can follow people the old-fashioned way—a stakeout—without a warrant or probable cause, and that GPS-bugging them is legally no different, because people should have no reasonable expectation of privacy while driving on public roads.

    Well, I'm sorry, I vehemently disagree. The resources required to conduct a stakeout demand that the police don't just do it all willy-nilly for no reason, and anyone who expects to be electronically tracked when there is no reason or cause to do so is an idiot. I know it, you know it, the police know it, this judge knows it, but with the swing of a gavel, he just legalized the excruciatingly stupid idea that you don't have any privacy on the roads. Some people think that talking about Big Brother watching us is an exaggeration, but when I read about stuff like this, it's really hard to see much of a difference.

    If there's any justice to be had from this, this idiot judge's decision will be overturned at some point.

    • by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Monday February 05, 2007 @07:40PM (#17897598)
      There is now absolutely nothing stopping the police from GPS-bugging anyone at any time for any reason, or even with a complete lack of a reason. Who here thinks that even though the police can GPS-bug people without a warrant that they simply will choose not to do so because the right thing to do, in the spirit of the Constitution, is to get a warrant first?

      What's worse, would EZ-Pass or On*Star (I have neither system - I'd rather bleed to death at the side of the road after an accident than lose my privacy 100% of the time) data obtained without a warrant now be admissible in court? I suspect that the cops might not even have to leave the comfort of their offices to attach the GPS bug if they play the game right.

      -b.

      • by krotkruton (967718) on Monday February 05, 2007 @07:53PM (#17897796)
        What's even worse than that, is that a lot of cars come with a black box or other GPS device. If you already have OnStar or other GPS systems installed, then it's pretty clear that you can be tracked. However, many cars are coming with pre-installed GPS tracking in the form of theft protection. I can't find a good link at the moment, but I remember seeing a video (for some reason I think it was on a Penn and Teller: Bullshit! episode) where a guy with a laptop tracked an employee's car as he went to do some errands. I can see how you would want to track your car if it gets stolen, but that really isn't what we are talking about here. The problem is that you can be tracked without your knowledge or consent if your car has such a black box. I'm not sure how that should play out in the legal world if tracking is done without a warrant, and this case didn't seem to take that into consideration.
      • by Namlak (850746) on Monday February 05, 2007 @07:55PM (#17897830)
        What's worse, would EZ-Pass or On*Star (I have neither system - I'd rather bleed to death at the side of the road after an accident than lose my privacy 100% of the time)

        Apparently, you are not aware that On*Star can give restaurant recommendations in times of dire emergency or you'd have never made your comment.
      • by monopole (44023) on Monday February 05, 2007 @08:22PM (#17898188)
        Got a cell phone? Most have GPS incorporated due to the E911 requirements. De facto broad surveillance of the population. But they're all terrorists anyway.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by b0s0z0ku (752509)
          Got a cell phone? Most have GPS incorporated due to the E911 requirements.

          It's not permanently attached to my car or to me. It can be (and often is) left at home or switched off - I suppose if I were really paranoid I'd remove the battery. OnStar is non easily removable (though it has been done). EZ-Pass stores location data by design - I doubt that cell companies store GPS locations of everyone's phone over time in detail since there'd be simply too much data to store.

          -b.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by maxume (22995)
            I'm not really worried about it, etc., but it is only 'simply too much data to store' until it isn't. That is, how long until technology can easily keep up with the data? A year or two?

            The big cell companies have something like 60 million subscribers; to track everybody once a minute, that's something like 4 billion records an hour. So yeah, it's a lot of data, but figure what, 16 bytes for a record, so 64 gigabytes an hour and 11 terabytes a week. So yeah, I don't think that it is something that they would
          • by T-Ranger (10520) <.ac.sn.otcubehc. .ta. .wffej.> on Monday February 05, 2007 @10:29PM (#17899430) Homepage

            GPSs can under ideal circumstances accurate down to 30cm. On handheld units, perhaps 10m. So WTF, lets go with that number. Further assume that people never travel faster then 1000km/h, which is about half the speed of a Concorde but still significantly faster then any commercial jet today in service. 1000km/h / 10m = 27.77 hz (maximum relevant data collection cycle) - 3 111.27 cycles/day. Say that they are lazy and they store UTM coordinates as 8 bit strings, thats 15 chars; 15 bits. 32 bit timestamps (which would be stupid, may as well be WTF ever GPS uses), and say 50 chars/bits for some kind of UID, we get 97.... call it 100 bits/user/cycle. Or around 40 kilobytes/day. Say I'm wrong, and off by a factor of 10, and they have no DBAs who know about data encoding. 400 k/day, less then 12mb/month.

            12mb/day is nothing, in the grand scheme of things, if "they" were motivated to do it. And assuming that they use a non-brain dead encoding scheme like I have proposed, and only record position if there is movement, then we are likely down to few mb/years. Cycle the data out so we only record ~100m accuracy, every 30 sec/max (fractions of hz), we are down to few mb/lifetime.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          > Most have GPS incorporated

          Yeah. We tried to warn cell phone users about that. Most of them couldn't see past the "Ooh! Aah! New nifty social status gadget!" mentality.

          > they're all terrorists anyway

          Every single cell phone call relayed through a satellite counts as an international transmission and is eligible for government surveillance.

          Even if you manage to post to Slashdot through only American servers the moment someone in Canada reads your post it becomes an international transmission and is
          • by CrashPoint (564165) on Monday February 05, 2007 @08:54PM (#17898542)

            Fact: The US Federal Government is out of control. Fact: They can justify anything they want at any time. Fact: If you notice it you will either be sent on a 5150 as "paranoid", shipped off to Gitmo, or you will meet a brick wall of denial.

            Fact: The only economically viable solution is complete and utter dismantling of the Federal Government. Failure to do so will inevitably result in pi55ing off someone who _is_ crazy enough to start a real war or execute a series, not just one, but a whole string of 9/11 style strategic attacks.

            Opinions: 2
            Unsupported Assertions: 3
            Facts: 0

            Knock it off with the "Fact:" crap. You're not helping.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              > Fact: If you notice it you will either be sent on a 5150 as "paranoid"

              This is a fact. I've proven it through personal experience at least three times.

              > Fact: They can justify anything they want at any time

              That is a fact as evidenced in the news over the last two years.

              > Fact: The only economically viable solution is complete and utter dismantling of the Federal Government

              Proof is available here [slashdot.org].

              I don't know why the mods knocked the post down to -1:Flamebait. Apparently they haven't been paying
              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by c6gunner (950153)

                > Fact: If you notice it you will either be sent on a 5150 as "paranoid" This is a fact. I've proven it through personal experience at least three times.
                'nuff said. If you're interested, I make professional mind-ray deflection devices using a nano-molecular weave of super-fine tinfoil fibres. For only $29.99 you too can be free of CIA mind control influence!
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        What's worse, would EZ-Pass or On*Star (I have neither system - I'd rather bleed to death at the side of the road after an accident than lose my privacy 100% of the time) data obtained without a warrant now be admissible in court?
        On Star can be used to bug your car 24/7, since it has GPS & a microphone.

        I do think the police have to get a warrant for your onstar data, since it's from a private company, unless it's an exigent circumstance.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by b0s0z0ku (752509)
          I do think the police have to get a warrant for your onstar data, since it's from a private company, unless it's an exigent circumstance.

          Can GM/On*Star give up the data voluntarily even if no warrant is shown? What's in the customer contract regarding data protection?

          -b.

      • by radish (98371)
        I don't get what the problem with EZ Pass is. It only does anything when I pass through a highway toll booth, and it only records the time I do so. So if I'm driving off-highway (which is most of the time) it does nothing. And if I really want anonymity for some reason I can just leave the tag at home or pop it in the silver antistatic baggy they helpfully supply. If I really wanted to be clever I could put it in another car. Given the other option (paying cash tolls) I don't think they really helps my priv
      • by Cerilus (191314) on Monday February 05, 2007 @09:13PM (#17898758)
        Just get yourself a GPS jammer [navigadget.com].

        I wonder if you were to jam a police GPS you'd be obstructing justice [washingtonpost.com]

        Steve

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by soft_guy (534437)
      I completely agree with your argument here. What is so damn hard about getting a warrant??
      • by PieSquared (867490) <isosceles2006NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday February 05, 2007 @07:53PM (#17897802)
        Well, because if they get a warrant and they're wrong... there is a record of it. Someone can point and say "90% of the people you bug aren't even accused of crimes!" With no warrant, it doesn't come out if they don't want it to.

        Obviously I agree that they should be required to get a warrant, so that they can be held accountable for watching people for the hell of it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Qzukk (229616)
          Obviously I agree that they should be required to get a warrant, so that they can be held accountable for watching people for the hell of it.

          You forgot the most important part:

          So that they can be held accountable for watching people for the hell of it WITH MY MONEY.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by zCyl (14362)

        What is so damn hard about getting a warrant??
        You usually need some sort of evidence that someone might have done something wrong to get a warrant.
    • The summary left out a little tidbit ... whether or not this was an hour surveillance or several days. Police don't need a warrant to follow a car fitting a description of a car involved in a robbery or if they see something illegal, but they do to search it when stopped. Unless they can see a bag of cash sitting in the back seat. The article didn't mention why the police felt it necessary to tag the car in the first place.

      Nowhere in the article did it mention if the data from the device was used to help
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      However, I have a major issue with the police, with no reason to think I might be doing something wrong and no warrant to back it up, putting a GPS receiver on my car just in case I do do something wrong.

      Now you're the one leaving out information. In this case the police did have reasonable suspicion that the person in question was doing something wrong. In fact, the judge feels that the police had probable cause.

      That said, I don't see why the police shouldn't have been required to get a warrant first.

      • by Sloppy (14984) on Monday February 05, 2007 @10:47PM (#17899574) Homepage Journal

        In fact, the judge feels that the police had probable cause.

        Maybe the way to look at it, is imagine if this were a McBain movie.

        McBain's partner, just a week before retirement, has just been shot by Columbian cocaine dealers. McBain runs out into the parking lot, sees his police car is on fire, and a car speeding away. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a magnetized tracker (presumably there's some backstory about how it ended up in his pocket), and throws it at the fleeing car. It hits the roof of the car, but at a bad angle, and rolls down the side, dramatically slides, and miraculously takes hold.

        Maybe that car has the crooks in it, and maybe it doesn't. But he's just taken his best guess. As the fleeing car speeds off over the horizon, McBain goes back to his bleeding partner.

        "Get Mendoza, and .. *cough* .. and tell .. my wife .. I .. *cough* love he--*gurgle*. [dies]" McBain gets a determined look in his eye, walks back outside, where a guy has just dismounted a motorcycle.

        "Police business, I am commandeering this vehicle," he says in a heavy Austrian accent, and he mounts up and peels off with a powerful screech. It is a very "cool" motorcycle, despite the prominant Kawasaki logo.

        He pulls another electronic gizmo out of his pocket. We get to see the brand name very clearly: it's an HP Pocket PC with a MS Windows CE logo. He pushes a button, and there's an amazingly beautiful 3D movie (took 2 weeks to render on the Opteron cluster) on the little screen, showing just where the car of interest is.

        At this point in the movie, I have to ask you something. Are you thinking, "Whoa, that's not cool! Total abuse of power and violation of the 4th!" Or are you thinking, "Go McBain!" Well, what are you thinking, punk?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Romancer (19668)
      Two situations where using gps trackers would be ok.

      1. Suspected bad guy with a warrant for tracking, just like the warrant required to tap his phone and get his bank records. Limited battery time and or limited data storage onboard for scope requirement of the warrant. Provision in the warrant for realtime or just storage of location.

      2. Vehicle evading police. One tag shot at the car to trace it and all the high speed accidents would be avoided. They can fall back and video tape the suspect while other car
    • Just one point, there is case law already (from more than a decade back) that GPS tracking of suspects is equivalent to other standard forms of surveillance currently employed by law enforcement. There is no problem for law enforcement to "tail" a suspect on foot, by car, or by other vehicle. GPS is a natural extension of this. This point has been made in many cases, and I am unaware of any limiting statements made by judges in those case. Tailing of a suspect never needs a warrent.

      What is different about G
    • by malsdavis (542216)
      " The judge did warn against 'wholesale surveillance' of the population, though.

      The judge in this case was a complete and total idiot. He can warn all he wants to, but he just set a legal precedent that says they can if they want to.


      I think you are the total idiot. His legal precedent will specifically go against such widespread GPS tracking as that is what he ruled. If any instance of the cops, the feds or anyone performing such is discovered then they will be facing charges themselves, as they will be
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Monday February 05, 2007 @07:47PM (#17897696)
    It would appear that the police tagged the suspect's car, not the suspect's person. Leaving aside the issue that people equate themselves with their car, tracking a publicly registered vehicle on a public street seems less like a violation of privacy. After all, is it that much different (other than cost to the police) from tailing a person in an unmarked police vehicle? The tin-foil hatted criminal could always borrow a friend's car, walk, or take the bus to escape tagged-vehicle tracking.
    • It would appear that the police tagged the suspect's car, not the suspect's person. Leaving aside the issue that people equate themselves with their car, tracking a publicly registered vehicle on a public street seems less like a violation of privacy. After all, is it that much different (other than cost to the police) from tailing a person in an unmarked police vehicle?

      In my opinion the police should get a warrant before following someone in an unmarked police car also, when the circumstances allow enoug

    • by FredMenace (835698) on Monday February 05, 2007 @08:07PM (#17898004)
      There are several differences. For one thing, the car is still private property. Do the police have the right to just start messing with and essentially modifying your car without permission (from you or a judge)? I mean, if someone ELSE crawled under your car and attached a GPS to it and started tracking your location, should that be legal? If not, why would we let the police do it without a warrant?

      In addition, the tracking does not somehow automatically stop when the car EXITS public streets and enters private property. This is pretty much the equivalent of tagging someone's actual body with a nano-GPS device. Sure, the police could physically walk behind you when you're in public, but should they have the right to know what room you are in inside your house, at all times? And should they be able to know your location 24x7, from the comfort of their office chair, without even needing to convince a judge you're a likely suspect in a crime?

      I also do think the fact that this makes it much cheaper and easier to do IS significant. It's kind of like privacy on the Internet: lots of things that have always been "public knowledge" have in actually tended to be fairly private due to obscurity. Now, they can suddenly be instantly accessible to anyone in the world, often showing up unbidden in unrelated searches. Such changes in ease of access do indeed call for changes in laws regarding accessibility and privacy of information.
    • by slashkitty (21637)
      "After all, is it that much different (other than cost to the police) from tailing a person in an unmarked police vehicle? "

      I was about to say the same thing, but you beat me to it.
    • The real problem with warrantless tracking is that ist opens up a whole new field of investigation via data mining etc. Getting a good feed of GPS positions, cell phone locations, whatever and it soon becomes a data mining exercise to determine who was where when. Add some bullshit stats ("it's a million to one chance that ...")and suddenly we see people being declared guilty with very little extra evidence.

      This sort of conviction has already started with DNA, except now we see things being opened up to in

  • by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Monday February 05, 2007 @07:51PM (#17897780)
    I could see it being useful in the event of expediency, but long-term surveillance (where there's time to see a judge) should require a warrant. Let's say if the cops see a stolen car making its way through heavy traffic and they can't safely chase it - perhaps that could fire some sort of sticky dart at it that contains a radio tracker. Then they just wait until the car stops moving somewhere and retrieve it.

    -b.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lithdren (605362)

      Let's say if the cops see a stolen car making its way through heavy traffic and they can't safely chase it

      That makes sense. They're tracking the car.

      The police in this case were using the GPS to track the person, through the car. The car itself wasn't at issue. Thats where this all falls apart. If the car was stolen, then they have an argument.
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
        The police in this case were using the GPS to track the person, through the car.

        Well, let's say that there was a car containing someone who'd just robbed a diner and shot five people. I wouldn't be opposed to using a GPS bug to track its occupants if there's no other safe way of doing so. The primary issues are time and expediency - if there's prima facie evidence of a serious crime in progress or being fled from AND there isn't time to contact a judge to seek a warrant, then the surveillance is justif

  • GPS jammer? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Monday February 05, 2007 @07:56PM (#17897854) Homepage
    Anyone got a link to a GPS jammer? that would help the criminals, simply JAM the gps signal for only 20 feet around you and their tracking is rendered 100% useless.
    • by PhxBlue (562201)
      You don't even need to do that. All you need to do is stop the transmitter from sending out a tracking signal--then it can collect GPS information all it wants, and you don't pooch other drivers' navigation systems.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)
      I don't know anything about a GPS jammer sold specifically for the purpose, but if you use a GPS testing rig, you can send out a signal that will totally swamp the GPS signal, and you can use it to specify any position you want to the GPS. You could actually tell the tracking unit that you were going someplace totally different. Of course, such units are quite expensive, meaning that only very successful criminals will be able to afford them. Thus this technology will be effective only against joe schmoe cr
    • Here's one, theWavebubble [ladyada.net].
    • http://www.phrack.org/archives/60/p60-0x0d.txt [phrack.org]

      Volume 0x0b, Issue 0x3c, Phile #0x0d of 0x10
      Low Cost and Portable GPS Jammer

      I built one based on this information for an electronics class a while back. It indeed works, as I can cause my Garmin III+ to lose positioning. Range limit is based on antenna used and power output.

  • by radionerd (916462) on Monday February 05, 2007 @07:59PM (#17897890) Journal
    If the police abandon their equipment by attaching it to my property does it become part of my property? Any good geek would want a nice new GPS reciever with a magnet on it to play with, wouldn't they? I've had run ins with the cops in the past, I inspect my vehicles from time to time. So far I haven't found anything new, but who knows?
    • by Lithdren (605362)
      Correct me if im wrong, but isn't the hope that you do keep it?

      I mean..if you leave it say, on a log, floating down a river, its hard to track you, right?
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
        Correct me if im wrong, but isn't the hope that you do keep it?

        It would make for an awfully boring tracking pattern if the bug stays in the suspect's driveway 99% of the time and occasionally goes for a ride in the car to the grocery store or to church on Sunday.

        -b.

    • by mschuyler (197441)
      No, it doesn't, any more than if a policeman abandoned a police car in your driveway. the car doesn't suddenly become yours. You probably have the right to have it towed away, though.
      • by ari_j (90255)
        "Abandon" is a word with both an English-dictionary meaning and a legal-dictionary meaning. Parking a car on someone's driveway is not abandoning it. See Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] for some discussion, but in general you must intend not to have any future ownership of your property in order to abandon it. In neither the car-on-driveway case nor the GPS-bug-on-car case is there an intent to abandon. And, while it would be civil trespass for you to put a magnet on my car with the intent to take it back later, and I could
    • No, you can't keep their bug, any more than you can keep their parking boot. There was a rather interesting (and comical) bit in the campus newspaper at the university where I'm a grad student. Basically, the campus police did a shoddy job of attaching a parking boot to someone's car, and the would-be target of said booting removed the boot, put it in his trunk, and drove off. When this guy was later caught (parking *next* to campus), the police not only issued him some huge fine for excessive parking ti
  • Does the judge, or any members of his family, own stock in the company which produces the shoot-and-tag GPS tracking guns?

    Big brother issues are definitely a concern in this case. More and more of the population seems to be willing to allow themselves to be profiled to death, though, so there really aren't any arguments left which would make any sort of difference.

    Other than "ulterior motive" and "big brother", there really isn't much else to talk about except the weather.
  • by tillerman35 (763054) on Monday February 05, 2007 @08:03PM (#17897956)
    Let's say I already have a GPS navigation system in my car which records my progress. Does this mean that the police no longer need a warrant to seize the tracking information? Since I supposedly have no right to privacy regarding the path which I took, how can I have any right to privacy for an instrument that records it, regardless of whether the instrument belongs to me, the police, or some third party? Ergo, the police no longer need a warrant to obtain the tracking information from rental car agencies. No slippery slope here, folks. Just a small step down a well-lit path.
    • by Obfuscant (592200)
      Let's say I already have a GPS navigation system in my car which records my progress.

      Let's say you live in the state of Oregon, and it is a few years from now, when the general gas tax is replaced by a road usage tax.

      You WILL have a GPS system in your car.

      Since the road usage tax amount will depend on which roads you use and what time you use them (e.g. I-5 in downtown Portland at noon is 15 cents per mile, at 3AM is 5 cents per mile), your GPS will record everyplace you drive and at what time. This data w

  • No matter how hard they try, such a device will add weight to the car. This in turn lowers your vehicle's miles per gallon rating. Thus they are stealing gas from you, no matter how insignificant the amount is.

    If you can't get them for a breach of privacy, get them for theft. I remember hearing about a case where a landlord who put hidden cameras in an apartment. The landlord couldn't be charged with a privacy violation so the police got him for stealing electricity he used to power his recording equipment
    • That was an episode of "The Practice" actually. I have no idea if it was based in reality, or just a plot line.
  • by CheeseTroll (696413) on Monday February 05, 2007 @08:29PM (#17898268)
    Judges have shot down the use of red-light cameras in Minneapolis because of the inability of the cameras to *prove* that it was the owner of the car (who gets the ticket) that drove through the light. This seems to me a very similar situation, with the same problems.
    • by Artifakt (700173)
      Given the Gee-Whiz factor normal to juries, GPS surveilance is practically an open invitation for a prosecutor to gloss over the differences between "We tracked the suspect to...", "We tracked the suspect's car to..." and "We tracked a device which may or may not have still been connected to the suspect's car to...".
  • by mschuyler (197441) on Monday February 05, 2007 @08:41PM (#17898392) Homepage Journal
    This was not "some judge" who "was an idiot" in some Traffic Court meeting in a double-wide out behind the courthouse of Whoville, TN. This is the Federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. (I mean, this makes it worse!) The only appeal from these guys is the Supreme Court. Further, it is precedent setting and can be used in further cases. The best way to get it to the Supreme Court would be to get another circuit court (like the ninth) to rule the opposite way. That way the Supreme Court would be more compelled to get into it.
  • This is yet another case that begs the question, why does law enforcement feel warrants are such an impediment? Is this an issue of courts not being open 24x7 like drive through chapels in Las Vegas or is it that judges are foolishly trying to connect the dots and not let cops play out hunches? While I agree this one isn't that big of a deal if you get enough not a big deal warrantless things going on it becomes a big deal and suddenly the big deal things aren't such a big deal anymore.
  • Comfort? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Monday February 05, 2007 @08:41PM (#17898396)

    >The judge did warn against 'wholesale surveillance' of the population, though, so ... that's some comfort.

    No. It's not!
  • by chaotixx (563211) <chaotix@gmail.BOYSENcom minus berry> on Monday February 05, 2007 @08:41PM (#17898402)
    Don't date any daughters of police officers!
  • by mangu (126918) on Monday February 05, 2007 @08:59PM (#17898610)
    I don't think using a GPS to track someone is a privacy invasion, as long as it's done in public places. Try this as a mental exercise: substitute GPS with human witness. Is it OK for the police to ask people on the street if they saw which way a suspect went? When you are in a public place, you must accept the fact that your privacy is not guaranteed. You may be watched, be it by someone who just happened to be there or by any sort of mechanical device.


    If everybody had a right to privacy everywhere, things like traffic cameras would become illegal. Should nobody be able to check whether it's best to go through First or Second Avenue, because Mr. John Smith is afraid his wife will see his car entering the "adult store" parking lot? And what if her cousin saw you, should she need a warrant to tell your wife? (hey, that wouldn't be a bad idea...)


    There is *one* and only one well defined place to draw the line where your privacy becomes more important than my right to watch. The line should be drawn at the borders of your property. The police and everybody else should absolutely need a warrant to look into your home, but once you step into the street my right to see trumps your right to stay unseen.

    • by mschuyler (197441)
      I don't think using a GPS to track someone is a privacy invasion, as long as it's done in public places. Try this as a mental exercise: substitute GPS with human witness. Is it OK for the police to ask people on the street if they saw which way a suspect went? When you are in a public place, you must accept the fact that your privacy is not guaranteed. You may be watched, be it by someone who just happened to be there or by any sort of mechanical device.

      That appears to be one of the arguments they are usin
  • This is one of the few gray areas of the law where I am actually not sure that law enforcement has done anything wrong. The 'slippery slope' that leads to constant monitoring of all vehicles, their position, etc (including speeding violations, traffic patterns, etc) is definitely something to be worried about ... however, in small scales, I can understand this a bit.

    What I do not agree with is the placement of unsolicited materials upon private property by a third party. This sounds to me, on a basic leve
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cederic (9623)

      If you ever find a small device attached to the bottom of your car and you didn't place it there, dial the emergency services, report a suspected IED, and hope they don't attempt a controlled detonation.

      If it's a bomb you've saved your life (and I've parked in the same carparks as people that didn't check, and died) and if it's a GPS tracking device you've just cost the local police a lot of time, money and embarrassment.

      It's a win either way.
  • The legal reasoning (Score:2, Informative)

    by coscarart (522354)
    There are two parts to 4th amendment law applicable here. The first is "search or seizure". The second is the warrant requirement. This case said that planting a gps tracking device on your car is not a "search" and therefore there is a lesser police suspicion required. Because it is not a "search" within the constitutional perspective, a warrant is not required. This is similar to a previous case where a beeper was placed inside a barrel that was used to track drugs. In both cases, as long as it wa
  • Police can follow me around or stake out my house without a warrant.
    Now, instead of assigning an on-duty officer to tail a suspect 24/7, they are using a GPS device.

    How is this sort of warrantless surveillance a 4th Amendment violation? I'm not saying it is not, I just don't see it.
  • Another cluess judge (Score:3, Informative)

    by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Monday February 05, 2007 @09:10PM (#17898714) Homepage
    From the article: But if police follow a car around, or observe its route by means of cameras mounted on lampposts or of satellite imaging as in Google Earth, there is no search.

    Someone watches too much 24.
  • the reality is that it takes a lot of effort to stick a gps on a car and then to retrieve it. Instead, it is the cameras and rfid that the feds have free access to, that should terrify ppl. This allows unlimited tracking in a pretty easy fashion.
  • Free citizen (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bluesman (104513) on Monday February 05, 2007 @09:20PM (#17898804) Homepage
    We have a reason to suspect that you violate the speed limit on public roads.

    Slap!

    This GPS receiver will let us know exactly when you do. Your ticket will come in the mail. Thank you for supporting our county!

    Please do not remove the device, as you will be charged with destruction of government property.

    • by mschuyler (197441)
      Actually, insurance companies are starting to do this. It is still experimental, but the deal is this: If you put this black box on your car, we'll lower your rates. Don't be a bad boy, or we'll be raising them back up.

      And state governments want to do this to get their share of gas taxes when you drive on "their" roads. You're billed per mile driven. Oregon wanted to do this some time back. I don't know how far they got with it the first time around.

      Both will be back.
  • by wardk (3037) on Monday February 05, 2007 @09:32PM (#17898910) Journal
    the cops are on the public dole, how do we know they aren't wasting our dollars messing around on duty?

    track all the cops all the time, record everyting they say or do.

    then track politicians next. then everyone on the public payroll.

    they work for us, it's about time we put the hammer down on their screwing around on duty
  • by c6gunner (950153) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @12:09AM (#17900178)
    Trust me on this: the cops have absolutely no interest in where you're going. All you paranoid maniacs need to stop thinking that you're the centre of the universe, and assuming that everyone wants to know everything about you. We don't. You're irrelevant and useless, and we have no interest in you whatsoever. If you're crazy enough, we might be marginally interested in you as a source of amusement, but that's about it.

    Police are only interested in where you've been or where you're going if they have a reason to suspect you of a crime. And if they suspect you of a crime, they can already track your movements - it's called surveillance (you know, like the "steakout" in your favourite holywood trash-flick). Police have never needed a warrant to track your movements for the simple fact that there is no such thing as a right to "privacy of movement"! Nor should there be. If you're moving around in public, people will see you. Period. The only restraint placed on police use of GPS surveillance should be the need to have probable cause.
  • by Mad-cat (134809) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @02:27AM (#17900972) Homepage
    I think a lot of people don't understand just how important the term reasonable suspicion is in the US justice system.

    I am a law enforcement officer in Florida. If I have reasonable suspicion that you are actively engaged in a crime, I have the right to detain you, without arresting you or charging you, for up to 24 hours.
    While detained, I cannot search your person or your vehicle. You cannot give consent to be searched either, as you would be under duress and not free to go.
    What I can do is a cursory pat-down of your person for safety reason (see Terry Stop case law). I can also observe your vehicle from the outside, and if I see any weapons or contraband in plain view I can immediately arrest you and do a full search of both your person and your vehicle.

    Reasonable suspicion gives a police officer an enormous number of tools to work with. People need to learn what it means, and once they understand what it means, lobby for change if they do not like it. Most police officers stick to the letter of the law, and to the letter of the case law to the best of their abilities. If you change the law to restrict cops, all *good* cops will abide by it whether they like it or not.

    The key limit of what we can do under reasonable suspicion is "an unreasonable violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy." The judge probably believed that a GPS tracker placed on the exterior of a vehicle was no more invasive than an officer following the vehicle around to see where it went. We already do that when we do undercover surveillance ops.

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