Who Says Police Need Warrant for GPS Tracking? Supreme Court, That’s Who!

This has always been a hot topic here at Satviz.com, the place where you can learn about GPS ROI.  There are 50 states in the US, plus the district of Columbia .. all with their own laws regarding GPS tracking.  There have also been a number of Federal Court cases on this subject.

However, this recent US Supreme Court decision is going to weigh very heavily on the clandestine tracking industry, and on overly zealous police agencies in the future, in the view of Mr. GPS that is.

Police need warrant for GPS tracking: court

(Reuters) – The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that police cannot put a GPS device on a suspect’s car to track his movements without a warrant, a test case that upholds basic privacy rights in the face of new surveillance technology.

Supreme Court 1The high court ruling was a defeat for the Obama administration, which had argued that a warrant was not required to use global positioning system devices to monitor a vehicle on public streets.

The justices unanimously upheld a precedent-setting ruling by a U.S. appeals court that the police must first obtain a warrant to use a GPS device for an extended period of time to covertly follow a suspect.

The high court ruled that placement of a device on a vehicle and using it to monitor the vehicle’s movements was covered by U.S. constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures of evidence.

There are no precise statistics on how often police in the United States use GPS tracking in criminal investigations. But the Obama administration told the court last year it was used sparingly by federal law enforcement officials.

The American Civil Liberties Union rights group hailed the ruling as an important victory for privacy. "While this case turned on the fact that the government physically placed a GPS device on the defendant’s car, the implications are much broader," Steven Shapiro of the ACLU said.

"A majority of the court acknowledged that advancing technology, like cell phone tracking, gives the government unprecedented ability to collect, store, and analyze an enormous amount of information about our private lives," he said.

Some of you realize, of course, that I am a former GPS program manger and former CEO of my own company selling GPS tracking systems into the industry and government verticals.  I’m a big, big believer in the use of GPS tracking, not only for catching ‘bad behavior’ … everything from slacking off at work to criminal deeds.

But I am also a great believer in personal freedom and especially wary of what Steve Shapiro of the ALCU says in his final paragraph above.

GPS tracking is a GREAT tool for it’s intended purpose.  Including the catching of criminals.  BUT, and it’s a big but, I firmly believe police ought to be restricted to using it in cases where it has met the tests of probable cause before a judge … exactly as they have to do today in order to tap phone conversations.

Never mind the personal privacy issues.  If you can just collect rams and reams of data on everyone … and then go fishing through it, the potentially harmful effects are mind boggling.

Is there anyone reading this article who HAS NOT done something in his/her car s/he would just as soon not be held accountable for?

If you stopped at that porn movie store or went 85 on the freeway in a rush to get home home Friday, should that be made apart of your permanent records … open to manual data analysis, or worse yet, automated systems like “Carnivore”, which is reading this message right now, as I send it … although the NSA will “neither confirm or deny” … because me writing this article or you reading it might affect “national security”.

Let’s make great use of GPS tracking technology whenever and where ever it’s appropriate … but let’s remember the whole reason we live in the USA .. The Constitution.

Another Sad Story Chapter — From Boston, Who Once Had This problem Solved

Back in 2007/2008 the city of Boston found they had a tremendous problem with “rouge snowplows”.  Both city-owned vehicles and vehicles hired for plowing from independent contractors were:

  1. Not where they were scheduled to be
  2. Not where drivers said they were when queried on the radio.
  3. Not plowing city roads and property when they were charging the city for the time.
  4. Or, (a biggie), “working” on the lcock for the city while they were off plowing private drives and parking lots for “under the table” cash.

Wirh a great deal of reluctance  the leadership of the city decided to actually hold their employees accountable by requiring all snow plowing vehicles to be equipped with and tracked by GPS fleet tracking software.

A valiant step in the right direction … one which not only saved the city money, but resulted in much better snow plowing service to the citizens (who, of course, are ACTUALLY the bosses of the city).

Sadly it seems though that some, either ignorant, corrupt or else just plain uncaring leadership who arbitrarily decided that some city plows didn’t need to be tracked.

No GPS in stolen plow

GPS Tracking saves money for ALL fleetsGPS tracking devices — Boston’s first line of defense 
against double-dipping snow-plow drivers — were never installed in trucks owned by the city parks department despite a 2008 tech upgrade that put the abuse-busting trackers in hundreds of public works vehicles, officials admitted yesterday.

The lack of trackers in parks department trucks came to light after the Herald asked why there was no GPS device in a plow stolen Thursday night from Franklin Park in Dorchester and found early yesterday in Mattapan.

“The parks department has felt there was no pressing need for that,” office spokeswoman Jacqueline Goddard said. “However, we’re looking at it now.” (My emphasis)

Watchdogs say it doesn’t make sense to put trackers in some city-owned trucks and leave others to roam free.

“Any time you have an opportunity to remove any tempt­ation, it’s a great thing for the taxpayers to have that utilized,” said Matt Cahill, 
executive director of the Boston Finance Commission. “We’ve got the software, we’ve made the capital investment into the hardware.”

Cahill said without GPS, the only thing keeping parks-department plow drivers from slipping away to a side gig is “a very involved manager.” …

And that line alone may be the saddest example of management “Missing the Point” of using GPS tracking.

Managers should indeed be involved.  But they should be involved with actual management, not running around chasing after unruly drivers like a hapless substitute teacher who has lost control of an unruly reform school class.

One guy apparently is devoted to “counting trucks” … only when one seems to be missing, of course.  I guess in the summer he counts lawn mowers and string trimmers.

That isn’t “management” folks.  It is, instead, a senseless waste of both the manager’s talent and the taxpayer’s dollar.

Can we do a bit better in 2013, Folks?  Maybe?  Please?

How Many Times Have I heard This Sad Story?

For many years I work in procurement for the US government,.  Specifically I was involved for along time writing specifications, Requests For Proposals  RFP’s)and evaluating contracts for GPS Fleet Tracking equipment.

I saw a lot of “good deals” for the government, a lot of not so “good deals” and a few pieces of absolute crap.

You know what made the difference between the good and the bad?

The way the RFP’s were written.  hand down the single most significant factor in getting a workable, useful system lies way back in the selection process where you define the need.

“Tacking On” tasks to existing contracts which never were about current needs?  It is not only illegal in many instances, but it is the most sure-fire path to getting one of those undesirable “crap” systems.

Do it right, people.  The system you get can not be any better than the system you ask for.

And it’s also the taxpayers money, if you hadn’t thought about that.

City changes course after skipping GPS bids

First try was linked to existing contract.


Supreme Court 1The city is continuing to accept bids from companies to develop a GPS bus-tracking system — something its law department says should have been done in the first place before asking one software company to take on the project without requesting other proposals.

"They are trying to clean this up and do this right," said Rose Wibbenmeyer, an assistant city counselor.

In May, the city promised that GPS tracking for Columbia Transit would debut with the launch of the student-centric FastCAT bus route in August, serving downtown and campus. The plan was to have the GPS service ready first for FastCAT and later for all Columbia Transit buses, allowing riders to track buses’ whereabouts from a smartphone or computer.

To develop the service, city officials — without seeking proposals from other vendors — looked to RouteMatch Software, an Atlanta-based company that since 2006 maintained a scheduling program for Columbia Transit’s paratransit vehicles. But RouteMatch was unable to develop a working GPS program for FastCAT, and the city dropped the vendor. The city since has developed its own GPS program until it hires a new vendor.

Wibbenmeyer said officials should have instead issued a request for formal proposals, which is required for city purchases totaling more than $15,000. The city expects the overall GPS project to cost as much as $400,000, with federal transportation funds covering 80 percent of that.

Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the city had intended to grant the work to RouteMatch as a change order to the city’s existing contract. He said that because of the short timeline to have GPS ready, and because RouteMatch’s work for paratransit had been successful, the city wanted to see whether that program could be expanded to provide the GPS service.

"At the time, it certainly made sense to do what we did," St. Romaine said. "But in retrospect, it probably wasn’t a good decision."

He said the city did not generate any documents for the proposed change order before the deal fell through…. rest of the article on How Not To Contract GPOS Fleet Tracking Systems