By Jess Bravin, Wall Street Journal, What They Know, January 23, 2012
WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court ruled Monday [in United States v. Jones] that police must obtain a warrant before attaching a GPS tracker to a suspect’s vehicle, voting unanimously in one of the first major cases to test constitutional privacy rights in the digital age. … The court split 5-4 over the reasoning behind Monday’s decision, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the majority that as conceived in the 18th century, the Fourth Amendment’s protection of “persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” would extend to private property such as an automobile. …
For full text of the article, visit Supreme Court Backs Privacy Rights in GPS Case – WSJ.com.
For full text of the Court’s opinion in United States v. Jones, click here.
- Supreme Court rules 9-0 that warrant absolutely needed for police GPS tracking (wired.com)
- GPS Surveillance: A Crossroads for the Fourth Amendment (geodatapolicy.wordpress.com)
- CDT Summary of Supreme Court Case, Does GPS Tracking Require a Warrant? (geodatapolicy.wordpress.com)
- Supreme Court Considers GPS Tracking Case Today (geodatapolicy.wordpress.com)
- New CRS Report on Governmental Tracking of Cell Phones and Vehicles (geodatapolicy.wordpress.com)
by Richard M. Thompson, Law Clerk,Congressional Research Service Report #R42109, December 1, 2011
Technology has advanced considerably since the framers established the constitutional parameters for searches and seizures in the Fourth Amendment. What were ink quills and parchment are now cell phones and the Internet. It is undeniable that these advances in technology threaten to diminish privacy. Law enforcement’s use of cell phones and GPS devices to track an individual’s movements brings into sharp relief the challenge of reconciling technology, privacy, and law. Beyond the Constitution, a miscellany of statutes and cases may apply to these tracking activities. One such statute is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA), P.L. 99-508, 100 Stat. 1848 (1986), which protects individual privacy and governs the methods by which law enforcement may retrieve electronic communications information for investigative purposes, including pen registers, trap and trace devices, wiretaps, and tracking devices. The primary debate surrounding cell phone and GPS tracking is not whether they are permitted by statute but rather what legal standard should apply: probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or something less.