Tag Archive | Precise Geolocation

Supreme Court GPS Tracking Case: Round-up and Resources

Updated February 20, 2012

UNITED STATES v. JONES
615 F. 3d 544, affirmed.

From Cornell University Legal Information Institute [HTML version has links to cited cases]:

From the Supreme Court and American Bar Association websites:

Legislation

In his written opinion, “Alito said the court and Congress should address how expectations of privacy affect whether warrants are required for remote surveillance using electronic methods that do not require the police to install equipment, such as GPS tracking of mobile telephones. Alito noted, for example, that more than 322 million cellphones have installed equipment that allows wireless carriers to track the phones’ locations (ABC News, Jan 23, 2012).” In his article linked below, Robert Gellman provides a nice overview of the complexities of the legislative process for updating privacy legislation after US v. Jones:

For a list of proposed location privacy legislation as of Fall 2011, visit the home page of Kevin Pomfret’s Centre for Spatial Law and Policy.

Law Review Articles and Essays

Case Summaries  and Commentaries (disclaimer: opinions and analyses are those of the original authors, not all may be accurate)

February 2012

January 2012

Older posts

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Location Privacy: Who Protects?

by Catilin D. Cottril, URISA Journal 2011, Volume 23, Issue 2

Abstract: Interest in and concerns related to the issue of privacy in the location-aware environment have been growing as the availability and use of location-based services (LBS) and data have been expanding. Recent events such as “Locationgate” have brought this issue to the forefront of interest for lawmakers, application developers, agencies, and users; however, understanding the varying levels of responsibility for each has been lacking. This article attempts to provide a clear review of the methods by which privacy protection may take place at the levels of law, technology, and management so a better understanding of how a comprehensive approach to privacy protection may take place. While the majority of policy aspects reviewed are U.S.-based, an attempt has been made to provide an overall view of locational privacy policy environments on an international scale as well. It is hoped that this effort will result in a clearer understanding of the ways in which privacy protection efforts should address the related concepts of law, technology, and practice to effectively minimize the risk of privacy harm.

For full text of the article, click here.

Supreme Court Ruled on GPS Tracking Case, Backs Privacy Rights

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 Considers GPS Tracking Case Today

United States v. Jones

Docket No. Op. Below Argument Opinion Vote Author Term

10-1259 D.C. Cir. Nov 8, 2011

Issue: (1) Whether the warrantless use of a tracking device on respondent’s vehicle to monitor its movements on public streets violated the Fourth Amendment; and (2) whether the government violated respondent’s Fourth Amendment rights by installing the GPS tracking device on his vehicle without a valid warrant and without his consent.

Plain English Issue: Whether the Constitution allows police to put a tracking device on a car without either a warrant or the owner’s permission; and whether the Constitution is violated when police use the tracking device to keep track of the car’s whereabouts.

For links to SCOTUS coverage of this case, as well as other materials, visit United States v. Jones : SCOTUSblog.

Location Privacy: Is Privacy in Public a Contradiction in Terms?

We would like to invite you to read Geodata Policy’s first guest blog posting by Robert Gellman. This article is timely given the update of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and the recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change, which highlights the sensitivety of “precise geolocation data” (p. 61). Robert Gellman is a privacy and information policy consultant in Washington, DC: http://www.bobgellman.com/.

Is Privacy in Public a Contradiction in Terms?

Robert Gellman, Privacy and Information Policy Consultant

February 21, 2011

Is there such a thing as privacy in a public space?  When you walk down the street, anyone can observe you, make notes about your location, appearance, and companions, and even take your picture.  If so, then it would seem that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

However, most people would be unhappy if they found themselves followed all day.  For most of human existence, this type of surveillance was impractical because of the great expense of following someone around.

This is a good place to pause and say that this is a short essay and not a law journal article.  The law of surveillance is complex, and the answers can be different if the person doing the surveillance is a government agent, an employer, or an average person, or if you’re taking pictures or recording conversations.

Is privacy in public a case of the irresistible force meeting the immoveable object?  Should your location privacy deserve some protection even when you are in public?

These questions are much harder to answer today because of technology.  It’s cheap to track people in public today.  There’s no need to pay a private detective.  Technology does it.  First on the list are cell phones.  Your cell phone broadcasts your location constantly to a cell phone tower, and your provider knows where you are.  Cameras are everywhere, taking pictures in malls, parking lots, building corridors, on the street, at red lights, and on the highway.  Facial recognition software is getting better all the time.  Photos placed on the Internet can be scanned to identify individuals as well as the date and GPS coordinates where the photos were taken.  Digital signage in stores and elsewhere can record behavior, approximate age, gender, and ethnicity, and can sometimes identify individuals using a variety of devices.  I recommend a pioneering report on digital signage by my colleague Pam Dixon.  It’s at the World Privacy Forum website.

Even though not all the technological and organizational links are yet in place, it’s not hard to envision the possibility that, in the near future, every action you take outside your home may be observed and recorded by someone.  This is more or less what happens today online, where there is a good chance that some website or advertiser (and probably many more than one) records every site you visit, every page and ad you see, and every click you make.

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