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After US v. Jones, FBI Turns Off 3,000 GPS Tracking Devices 189

Posted by timothy
from the never-said-boo-about-the-human-implanted-chips dept.
suraj.sun writes with this excerpt from the Wall Street Journal: "The Supreme Court's recent ruling overturning the warrantless use of GPS tracking devices has caused a 'sea change' inside the U.S. Justice Department, according to FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann. Mr. Weissmann, speaking at a University of San Francisco conference called 'Big Brother in the 21st Century' on Friday, said that the court ruling prompted the FBI to turn off about 3,000 GPS tracking devices that were in use. These devices were often stuck underneath cars to track the movements of the car owners. In U.S. v. Jones, the Supreme Court ruled that using a device to track a car owner without a search warrant violated the law. After the ruling, the FBI had a problem collecting the devices that it had turned off, Mr. Weissmann said. In some cases, he said, the FBI sought court orders to obtain permission to turn the devices on briefly – only in order to locate and retrieve them."
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After US v. Jones, FBI Turns Off 3,000 GPS Tracking Devices

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  • Mine now! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ewanm89 (1052822) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @10:35AM (#39163751) Homepage
    Maybe the feds should be more careful before giving out their toys!
    • by Apothem (1921856)
      I wish they gave me one, I totally would love to have a brand new GPS tracker to play with,
    • Re:Mine now! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jessified (1150003) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @12:16PM (#39164325)

      No kidding. The fact that they are having trouble locating them is troubling...is that to say they don't even know basic information on the suspect, such as his address or common residence? A means of contacting him/her?

      I'm also wondering if you could get in trouble for taking the device. If someone intentionally places something in or on your car, to me that is akin to giving it to you. Just like if someone intentionally leaves a box on my doorstep I assume it's for me. Am I supposed to ask the owner of pamphlets permission before throwing them away?

    • Re:Mine now! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by meerling (1487879) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @01:10PM (#39164683)
      Maybe if they put a bounty on them, $50 dollars no questions asked, or $500 if it's still in working condition.

      Hmmm, maybe the working condition bounty should be higher, I know a lot of people that would think $450 they don't yet have is a small price for showing scum exactly what they think of them. Remember, not only is this an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, it is also a declaration of war by the instigator (personal war, not literal war), and an insinuation that you are a vile criminal. Let's just say people don't like being insulted like that and without a large cash mollification, your expensive tracking toy will quickly become random junk.
  • A much better idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 26, 2012 @10:38AM (#39163769)

    Tell the FBI to write a nice letter to the owners of the vehicles asking if they would kindly return the black box attached under the right rear fender.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 26, 2012 @11:33AM (#39164105)

      Are you suggesting that federal agencies should somehow be required to admit to people that they have been illegally tracked? Such knowledge would only confuse and upset people. Far better to break the law one last time in order to covertly retrieve their hardware.

      Why do you hate America?

      • by fred911 (83970)

        Absolutly! Additionally, all intelligence or evidence should be considered as fruit of the poison tree, including any information derived from the "poison". Therefore inadmissible in court.
          They should also be liable for civil rights damages.

        • by jamstar7 (694492)
          Personally, I'm wondering about any convictions made on cases where there were warrantless GPS trackers installed. Wouldn't this give their attorneys grounds for immediate appeal/instant overturning the conviction?

          Of course, if these trackers never showed up in the evidence presented, I'd think it'd be awful hard to get the FBI to admit those trackers were in place. Getting the government to admit anything is a stone cold bitch.
      • by arisvega (1414195)

        Are you suggesting that federal agencies should somehow be required to admit to people that they have been illegally tracked?

        Well, they admitted it to this guy [slashdot.org], so why not?

    • by nbauman (624611) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @02:21PM (#39165289) Homepage Journal

      That's actually a good response.

      If the FBI showed up on my door and asked for their tracking device back, I'd say, "I don't know who you are, whether you own it, or whether you have a legal right to get it. Send me a letter giving me all the details and establishing that you own it, and I'll take it to a lawyer and do what he says."

      Suppose an hour later another bunch of guys showed up and said that they were the FBI and they wanted their tracking device back?

      • by fluffy99 (870997)

        That's actually a good response.

        If the FBI showed up on my door and asked for their tracking device back, I'd say, "I don't know who you are, whether you own it, or whether you have a legal right to get it. Send me a letter giving me all the details and establishing that you own it, and I'll take it to a lawyer and do what he says."

        Suppose an hour later another bunch of guys showed up and said that they were the FBI and they wanted their tracking device back?

        I doubt they'd ask. They'd just remove it when the vehicle was accessible. Perhaps parked in your driveway instead of the garage, or in the parking lot at your work. They certainly felt no compulsion to ask when the put it their, possibly trespassing when they did it.

  • Just an idea... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @10:43AM (#39163815)
    What would happen if I happened to find such a device on my car and put a fine metallic mesh grounded to the chassis of the vehicle? They would have a serious problem, I guess...
    • If they are just on a fishing expedition, they'll probably assume that the device has failed/fallen off into a drainage ditch/whatever and call it a day.

      If they are actually interested in you, it is quite likely that the same fine upstanding men with guns who installed the device will, shall we say, 'schedule a service call' at whatever place and time seems most likely based on tracking data from before you discovered the device...

      If it has come to the point where you have a GPS bug on your car, they'v
    • Re:Just an idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by VortexCortex (1117377) <`VortexCortex' ` ... -retrograde.com'> on Sunday February 26, 2012 @11:26AM (#39164073) Homepage

      What would happen if I happened to find such a device on my car and put a fine metallic mesh grounded to the chassis of the vehicle? They would have a serious problem, I guess...

      What would happen if you didn't put a mesh around it to more securely affix it to the undercarriage and it came off on the highway, bounced into my windshield and caused a massive crash and multi-vehicle pile up?

      You would be ill advised to not secure such loose, or merely magnetically attached devices.

    • by mpe (36238)
      What would happen if I happened to find such a device on my car and put a fine metallic mesh grounded to the chassis of the vehicle? They would have a serious problem, I guess...

      A more obvious response would be to call the police and say that a suspicious device was attached to your car. Maybe even mention the "b" word.
      • by Kennon (683628) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @12:57PM (#39164559) Homepage
        Although true, I don't think calling the FBI "bitches" would be very constructive in this situation.
      • by meerling (1487879)
        Yeah, but in some places this will only convince the bombsquad to blow up your car to 'neutralize' the device, and then charge you all attendant costs. Especially in Boston. It's much cheaper to buy a new car, and either send that one to the scrapyard or donate it to charity. Please note, if you really think it's a bomb, donating it to charity is definitely and act of EVIL, and usually illegal as well. :)
  • by jc42 (318812) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @10:46AM (#39163827) Homepage Journal

    My first reaction to this was "Why wouldn't they just let them die off when their batteries run down?" In my experience, no GPS device small enough to be hidden in a car will run more than a few days without recharging the battery; most of them die in a matter of hours.

    Then my second thought was "How are those gadgets powered?" Do they have a a humongous battery that will last weeks or months? Do they tap into the car's electrical system and not need a battery? If so, will the owner of the car find that the battery is run down when they don't drive it every day? What would be the legal import of the cops tapping into my car's battery and draining it? And, of course, when I took it into the shop and they found the electrical parasite, it would be removed, so this doesn't seem to be a very smart way to power a secret GPS gadget.

    You could use a solar charger, but those are sorta hard to conceal.

    Anyone know how these things are powered, and how long they can run without either draining the car's battery or dying because their own battery is dead?

    • by schnikies79 (788746) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @10:52AM (#39163875)

      They are not that small. The battery pack is about a foot long.

      http://gizmodo.com/5658661/fbi-gets-caught-tracking-mans-car-wants-its-gps-device-back [gizmodo.com]

    • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @11:03AM (#39163947) Journal
      they burn a teeeeny tiny amount of electricity in standby - think like a a wrist watch - it can use a tiny battery for years. They only start burning juice when their accelerometer kicks in when the car moves. It then asks where it is (GPS co-ordinates) phones those in and then every (x) seconds repeats that -
      Box to GPS: "Where Am I?"
      GPS to Box:(X.Y.)
      Box: [send X.Y. to bigbrother@fbi.gov]
      In between, it's "on" but only needs to transmit every (x) seconds, and even then, not for very long. Transmitting is the big energy burner. The really good ones can last over a month assuming the car is used about an hour every day. They go back to "sleep" mode after about 5 minutes of motionlessness.
      You can buy them yourself. The good one cost about $200 - 300 and you have to pay for access to the data to be sent to you and/or access to the mashup where the data is plotted on Google maps. Don't ask why I know about this stuff...
      • You can buy them yourself. The good one cost about $200 - 300 and you have to pay for access to the data to be sent to you and/or access to the mashup where the data is plotted on Google maps. Don't ask why I know about this stuff...

        Why do you know about this stuff?

        • by meerling (1487879)
          Lowjack services.
        • by jamstar7 (694492)

          You can buy them yourself. The good one cost about $200 - 300 and you have to pay for access to the data to be sent to you and/or access to the mashup where the data is plotted on Google maps. Don't ask why I know about this stuff...

          Why do you know about this stuff?

          Progressive offers to 'give' you one as well as a 'discount' on your insurance policy if you sign up for that 'service'. It plugs into your black box port. If you drive the legal speed limit, it might help reduce your insurance rates. In my ca

        • by mooingyak (720677)

          You can buy them yourself. The good one cost about $200 - 300 and you have to pay for access to the data to be sent to you and/or access to the mashup where the data is plotted on Google maps. Don't ask why I know about this stuff...

          Why do you know about this stuff?

          That's my automatic reaction when someone tells me not to ask them something. I get an answer more often than not.

      • by Shoten (260439)

        I have to say that I have my doubts about this description, especially the comparison to the commercially-available versions. The device that was found by one guy under his car...apparently, an earlier model with its own power source...bears no resemblance at all to what you or I could easily acquire without going to a defense contractor-like organization. So it tends to follow that any device that would improve upon that design would only divert further from what could be bought for a few hundred dollars

      • by rcw-home (122017)

        Box to GPS: "Where Am I?"
        GPS to Box:(X.Y.)

        FYI, GPS does not work this way at all. Signals are unidirectional - they are *only* sent from the satellites to the receivers. The data stream sent is primarily a very, very accurate timestamp as well as ephemeris data (indicating the orbit of the satellite). Based on that information, distance to each satellite is calculated by the receiver via speed of light delays and triangulation (this is why 3 satellites are required for position, and 4 are required for al

    • I think that you are thinking too "Mission Impossible" here where the agent rolls under the car at a stop light and puts a magnetized tracker on the underside of the car. These devices are actually hard wired into the vehicles battery system so that they charge when the vehicle is on. The FBI wouldn't waste time tracking someone with a battery powered device that would go dead and then they would have to find them again to plant a new device.
      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        How can they actually fit this without gaining access to the vehicle, or causing the body management ECU to report all kinds of faults because of the additional current drain?

        Furthermore, how do they do this without being *seen* doing it? Don't you guys have alarms and CCTV over there?

        • by PPH (736903)

          How can they actually fit this without gaining access to the vehicle, or causing the body management ECU to report all kinds of faults because of the additional current drain?

          Its not difficult to find a running light circuit and clip into that. But sometimes they do clip into the wrong lead and antics ensue. I've heard of one being found where the device was tapped on to the low fuel sensor circuit of a vehicle, resulting in the low fuel warning light coming on whenever the GPS went into charge mode.

        • by tverbeek (457094)

          "Don't you guys have alarms and CCTV over there?"

          We have car alarms, but they're mostly used by self-centered pricks who don't notice or care that the alarm is being set off by the wind or passing trucks every 5-50 minutes, so no one else pays attention to them either.

          We do have CCTV, but not so much as in Orwell's United Kingdom. There are actually entire city blocks which are not under any kind of surveillance at all!

          • by Gordonjcp (186804)

            Sounds like the UK, where *entire cities* have no CCTV. The whole "eleventy billion CCTV cameras" was made up by a tabloid journalist, but I can't be bothered recounting the sad tale again. Suffice it to say that the second most violent city in the UK, with a population of about 2.5 million people in the whole conurbation, has about 200 CCTV cameras in total - mostly concentrated in the city centre and around the football grounds. Old Firm games are notorious for violence between rival fans.

            Most people w

  • On Craiglist! Ha!

  • by Provocateur (133110) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @11:02AM (#39163927) Homepage

    Sir:

    Please return the other GPS that is attached in the vicinity of the right wheel well. (You may have to get down on the ground to access it.) This happens to be the property of the Federal Government. We have enclosed a box with an address so that you may drop it off within the next ten days at the nearest mailbox at your convenience. No questions will be asked. Thank you in afvance for your cooperation.

    This will prevent us from coming to retrieve the aforementioned property in person. In the middle of the night, no less.

    Your friendly neighborhood federal agent

     

    • by PPH (736903) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @12:37PM (#39164419)

      Sir,

      I am more than happy to comply. I have enclosed the object I located stuck to the bottom of my truck in the vicinity of the right wheel well. Although I am no expert and I don't really know what this GPS object of which you speak looks like, here it is. On my ranch, we have different names for these, depending on whether they are dried or still soft.

      A cooperative citizen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 26, 2012 @11:03AM (#39163943)

    https://www.eff.org/sites/default/files/filenode/scotusjones.pdf

  • Ahh, no wonder the rattling sound from my wheel well suddenly disappeared.

  • So the FBI should just post a bounty on the folks with these things. Those bounty hunters seems to be good at finding folks and their stuff.

    Maybe the FBI should just call the tailed folks up, and ask them nicely to give the devices back? Although, that didn't work out too well with the CIA Iran drone.

    How about a national "Search Your Own Car Day?" You might be surprised what you'd find under the back seat.

  • The summary is inaccurate when it says Jones required a warrant. The Court only found that the installation of the GPS device was a search because it involved a trespass. It did not say whether that search was unreasonable or, if it is, whether a search warrant or probable cause were required.

    In fact, reading the opinions, it would appear that all the justices (except maybe Sottomayor) would allow GPS devices installed without a warrant for short term tracking.

    Of course, the Justice department usually p

    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      Of course, the Justice department usually prefers err on the safe side.

      Problem is, the Justice Department's definition of 'safe' is different from ours. Their definition is more along the lines of 'cover your ass' than 'don't bug decent law-abiding citizens'.

  • I was running my cell phone off their GPS' battery. /lie
  • How about this for a new standard:

    If an average citizen would be convicted of a crime (trespassing, harrassment, stalking, etc.) for doing it, the police need a warrant if they want to do it. I mean, for fuck's sake, they have special courts made specifically for the purposes of rubber-stamping warrants, now these fucking assholes feel like they should be able to spy on us without even having to go through the trouble of getting the bullshit warrant in the first place? What a Fucking Bunch of Idiots.
    • by meerling (1487879)
      Agreed.

      Should I mention the time I ran into an actual FBI agent in a store getting 'print samples' from various laser and dot matrix printers?
      He was really upset when I pointed out that they don't have physical type like a typewriter, instead they are all electronic fonts that can be changed on the whim of the user or software.
      He got even more upset when I pointed out that all the inks and toners came from a handful of factories, and with refils, it might not even be the same one that was originally used.
      He
  • by QA (146189)

    I recently set up an entire GPS platform for our fleet at work. Security was an issue so I purchased the platform and run it in house on a server I built. Currently have 200 assets, but the platform will handle 5000.

    They are probably using a device similar to an Enfora modem. These are cellular only, and fairly basic, although they can be configured to reports certain parameters such as ignition on, motion detection, geofencing, etc.

    At the other end of the scale you can have a dual band device like the i50B

  • I've collected a few hundred of these now-deactivated GPS tracking devices, and I'm coming here to Slashdot to ask: How can I repurpose them into something useful? Can I install some flavor of Linux on them? Perhaps turn them into nodes of a mobile mesh network? Mobile hotspots for on-the-road internet access? How about a location-specific personal music player, that based on where you're driving, will download appropriate music and feed it to your car stereo's built-in Bluetooth receiver?

    Any and all ideas
  • If a GPS is under a car how does it get line of sight to the satellites? Are these devices just security theatre to frighten people into conforming for fear of being tracked?

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