The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision on GPS tracking is a mixed bag for privacy rights.
In a unanimous ruling, the justices required law enforcement officials to obtain a search warrant before they attach a GPS tracking device to a vehicle. A warrantless search would violate the Fourth Amendment.
But the court ducked the larger issue of whether warrants are required for other kinds of surveillance technology, including geolocation tracking in cellphones and RFID tags.
It may be disappointing, but it doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Sure, the justices engaged in a lively discussion last November of a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy in a digital world. But in their eyes, the case centered around the “physical intrusion on [the Defendant's] Jeep.”
The decision concerned the case of Antoine Jones, who was sentenced to life in prison for possession and distribution of drugs. Law enforcement gathered evidence for his conviction with by placing a GPS tracking device on his vehicle—without obtaining a warrant.
The decision will impact pending cases where a GPS device was attached to a vehicle without a warrant. The Supreme Court must next address whether warrants are required for other types of digital monitoring.
Check out our related posts on GPS devices, Geotagging 101, What We’re Sharing in our MS Office and Adobe Documents for more information on how to protect your identity.
Eduard Goodman, Chief Privacy Officer, Identity Theft 911
An internationally trained attorney and privacy expert, Eduard has more than a decade of experience in privacy law, fraud and identity management. He is a member of the state bar of Arizona and served as the 2008-2009 section chair of the bar’s Internet, E-Commerce & Technology Law Practice Section.
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