There seems to be a lot of attention given these days to the use of GPS devices, automobiles and invasion of privacy. Yesterday, I posted a story about how GM announced it will continue to maintain a two-way connection to your vehicle even after you cancel your OnStar GPS service, unless the customer requests otherwise.
As if having corporations track your whereabouts isn’t scary enough, now we are faced with the police and government trying to get the courts to uphold their recent use of placing GPS devices on cars without obtaining a warrant.
Currently, The Electronic Frontier Foundation is asking the Supreme Court to ban the practice of using warrantless GPS-based bugs to track citizens’ movements. They’ve just been joined in their appeal by Roger L. Easton, the principal inventor of GPS technology.
In an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court Monday in United States v. Jones, EFF, Mr. Easton, along with other technology experts, pointed out the many ways in which GPS tracking is fundamentally different from and more invasive than other surveillance technologies the court has allowed before, and how law enforcement use of GPS without a warrant violates Americans’ reasonable expectations of privacy.
“This is the first case where the Supreme Court will consider automatic, persistent, passive location tracking by law enforcement,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. “The government can use location information over time to learn where you go to church, what sort of doctors you go to, what meetings and activities you participate in, and much more. Police should not have blanket permission to install GPS devices and collect detailed information about people’s movements over time without court review.”
In Jones, FBI agents planted a GPS device on a car while it was on private property. Agents then used the GPS to track the position of the vehicle every ten seconds for a full month without obtaining a search warrant. An appeals court ruled that the surveillance was unconstitutional without a warrant, but the government appealed the decision.
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