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.