GPS Device Data Increasingly Being Used By Police To Determine Where You Were

from the privacy-schmivacy dept

Late last years, the news broke that law enforcement officials had figured out a neat little loophole to obtain location data on you without having to seek a warrant on you using the probable cause standard. Instead, they're seeking warrants not on the individual, but on the companies that may have data on your location, which only requires a magistrate judge's approval, and no showing of probable cause. So, how is this playing out? Well, reader JB points us to the news of a sudden growth in lawsuits where police are using data from GPS units to help convict people based on their location at the time of the crime. Since the police can get that data directly from the company without needing to show probable cause, it's much easier for them to get the data to convict people or push them into plea bargaining. So, while those turn-by-turn directions may be useful, recognize that they may also be used by the police against you in court.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Amanda, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 5:58pm

    So What!

    If you aren't committing any crimes why should this be a problem. Ok I understand it may be a rights violation but aren't you forfeiting your rights when you commit a crime.

     

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  2.  
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    so yeah!, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 6:11pm

    Re: So What!

    it's better to let many guilty people go free than to put one innocent person in prison. besides, if they really are guilty, than there should be no problem obtaining a warrant and demonstrating probable cause.

     

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  3.  
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    Zubin, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 6:15pm

    Re: So What!

    Amanda, you point out the exact reason this is a problem: most of us are not committing any crimes.

    Certainly convicting criminals is important, and GPS data can become part of that, but nobody should be able to bypass the proper judicial review before receiving a warrant.

    There is no reason the spirit of reasonable search and seizure shouldn't apply here as well, and the laws will have to be updated to reflect that.

     

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  4.  
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    inc, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 6:23pm

    no need for a new law 4th amendment should apply here

     

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  5.  
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    giff, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 6:39pm

    Re: So What!

    Well actually no, you aren't.

     

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  6.  
    icon
    Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 6:41pm

    Just so everyone understands, GPS as used in personal navigation systems is ONE-way. Your GPS unit receives a signal from a number of satellites and calculates the time offset between them to pinpoint your location.

    Do you really think a $99 device with a small built-in antenna is continually transmitting your whereabouts and that of millions of others to satellites thousands of miles away?!?

    Although the article doesn't mention it, the info the police are using would be from people who subscribe and pay for a two-way GPS location system. Typically these use the cel phone network to allow suspicious spouses to track each other, or businesses to know where their trucks are.

    Techdirt does not usually subscribe to this level of technology-is-too-scary hysteria.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Just Remember, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 6:45pm

    Yah..

    It's all fun and games until it you staring down the barrel of the gun.. Today, it's I'd rather just have you all locked up.. (being were all pirates and stuff to hear them tell it)

     

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  8.  
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    Portnoy, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 6:50pm

    Privacy-Schmivacy Dept is Confused

    The first referenced article talks about cops getting location information from the telcos based on cellphones. The second article describes law enforcement getting location information based on the data in your portable/automobile GPS by physically confiscating it and checking the history. GPS units, i.e., Garmin, Tom-Tom, do not send location info back to the manufacturer so the companies do not have any data to provide law enforcement. A modern cellphone continuously sends location data back to the service provider while it is turned on and we know the telcos are in bed with the government.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 6:51pm

    Re:

    Ever hear of LoJack?

     

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  10.  
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    Eric B, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 6:55pm

    GPS?

    I wonder if they're accessing "On Star" which is a two way transmission system.
    Either way, this is not the first or the last time the authorities skirt around laws to get what they want.

    First they came for the Communists,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Communist.
    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Jew.
    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I was a Protestant.
    Then they came for me,
    and by that time there was no one
    left to speak up for me.

    by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 7:27pm

    This isn't new. My girlfriend used to work as a dispatcher. She showed me how they type your cell phone number into their computer and find its location within 20 feet. Not to mention the results show up on a detailed map with the position circled. ...and that was at least a year ago.

     

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  12.  
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    j, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 7:56pm

    Re:

     

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  13.  
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    Holy Crap, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 8:10pm

    Re: So What!

    Amanda -> "If you aren't committing any crimes why should this be a problem. Ok I understand it may be a rights violation but aren't you forfeiting your rights when you commit a crime."

    It's not much of a stretch then to assume guilt just because GPS enabled devices are avoided.

    Officer: "Where is your GPS cell phone ?"
    Me: "I do not have one"
    Officer: "You have the right to remain silent ....."

     

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  14.  
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    Nick (profile), Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 9:00pm

    I think it should be noted that this is only possible with GPS systems that can "call home" and send the GPS data to a server provider (such as OnStar or the telecoms). Your basic $100-$500 stand-alone GPS unit is not going to do this. It may keep your previous routes in it's internal memory, but it will probably not track you if you have not told it to. Even then, we could get to the point where police pull you over, ask to see your GPS, and then try to use your previous whereabouts against you. I think the ability to keep GPS data private within the device is going to be a new feature of GPS units very soon.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Benjamin Wright, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 9:13pm

    divorce lawyers

    Divorce lawyers will use subpoenas to seek GPS data, just as they do to get IM and e-mail. --Ben http://hack-igations.blogspot.com/2007/09/endless-investigations.html

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Grae, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 9:21pm

    Re: So What!

    Read this: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=998565

    (My own words below, not from the article linked:)

    The argument that "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about" is a red herring; in truth privacy is as inseparable from freedom as your internal organs are from you.

    In a "nothing to hide" society, law enforcement by default is given unlimited surveillance, search, and seizure rights; remember, if you've got nothing to hide, then a police officer pulling you over and turning your car inside out with no explanation shouldn't be a problem, right? Wiretap on all voice and data lines in your home and work? Medical record search? Financial record search? No problem! You've got nothing to hide, right? We just need to check you out to keep society safe. And remember your privacy rights don't overrule the right of society to be safe.

    This scope of data collection would flood law enforcement, and the obvious solution would be to put "impartial" computers into place to interpret it all, and search for matches to criminal profiles based on YOUR day-to-day activities.

    When the police come for you because a computer (which, by the way, is not capable of putting events into a human context) in a federal monitoring facility has flagged you as possibly having committed a crime or connected to a criminal just remember: you don't have anything to worry about because you've got nothing to hide.

    Assuming that law enforcement even realizes it's a mistake, they can't be held liable for falsely accusing you and arresting you, after all, if you had nothing to hide, you wouldn't have gone about your day-to-day life in such a suspicious manner that would have cause their monitoring computers to flag you as a suspect. Nevermind any time lost or damage to your personal reputation (your employer can't take you back, you've been arrested, and that may flag their business and their employees as criminal suspects), nevermind all that! You had nothing to hide, right?

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Grae, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 9:44pm

    Re: So What!

    Also "aren't you forfeiting your rights when you commit a crime." Uh...... NO.

    Where are you from? If you're from the U.S., go back to high school and take a basic U.S. History class. If you're not from the U.S. then I feel sorry for you and whatever backwards country you live in that the laws there would perpetuate such a belief.

    You know when a police officer is arresting someone and they list off a set of rights starting with "You have the right to remain silent."? Those are called Miranda RIGHTS, and if the law in the U.S. was truly as you say, then there would be no need for suspects being arrested to even be advised of them.

    Also, in this "no rights for criminals" fantasy world, those serving time in prison could be tortured and used for slave labor with no legal recourse. This goes with my previous post, that those mistakenly accused criminals would be in for a lifetime of Hell, without ever having committed any wrong doing.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Jason, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 9:46pm

    GPS defence

    If they are going to do that, then I suppose that you should be able to take your gps into court and show the judge that in fact you weren't speeding....just a thought

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 10:01pm

    Re: GPS?

    On Star... lol

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    neil, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 10:29pm

    Re: Re: So What!

    wait a minute.
    you dont point out any problems with the nothing to hide idea. you only point out interuptions in your life harrasment.

    people accept the concept, if they beleve, of god being all knowing, why? because he does so whitout your knowing.

    if law enforcment could record all matter on earth at all times through the day and review that recorded information they could search your car without you being interupted and since you had nothing to hide they whould find nothing and see the nothing to hide system works flawlessly.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 10:57pm

    Re: GPS defence

    Yes, and your GPS data could confirm that you were just as easily.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Lucretious, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 1:07am

    Re: So What!

    If you aren't committing any crimes why should this be a problem.

    ...she says as she is waved on past the checkpoint.....

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Enrico Suarve, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 2:06am

    Re: GPS?

    Got the Communists? tick
    Got the Muslims? tick

    ...whos next? ;0)

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    BTR1701, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 4:48am

    Re: Re: So What!

    > Those are called Miranda RIGHTS

    Actually, it's called the Miranda warning. The rights are entirely separate from the warning.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    JB, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 5:45am

    Why so many

    Why do so many people have GPS these days is beyond me. I see them on most cars. Are there that many people who actually need them? What is there no ability to remember how to get to that same job everyday.

    Except for the traveling business folks, there is no real need. I'll never need one , I can follow a map and have a real sense of direction.

    Obviously it's the stupid criminals, the real ones know where they are going.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    DS, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 6:07am

    Re: So What!

    "If you aren't committing any crimes why should this be a problem"

    Well, committing any crime that you are currently aware of. Your 'crime' could be being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 6:25am

    Re:

    Or even the 5th?

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 6:28am

    Re: So What!

    "aren't you forfeiting your rights when you commit a crime."

    You only lose rights once you are CONVICTED of a crime. Whether you actually commited the crime or not has no real bearing on your rights (until and unless you are convicted).

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 6:32am

    Re: So What!

    "If you aren't committing any crimes why should this be a problem."


    I know there is a slippery slope around here somewhere ... and it probably ends at a large cliff. Be careful not to lose your footing.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    jhunter, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 7:33am

    Re:

    I was going to say this... a good rule of thumb is if you pay a monthly fee for GPS it's a two way deal (or you're just getting ripped off).

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 7:48am

    Re: Why so many

    >>I can follow a map and have a real sense of direction

    I don't. That's why I have one. Until I've been to a place 10 times or so, I have a hard time getting there.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 7:49am

    Re: Re: Why so many

    Oh, and I have a very high IQ. So, "stupid" has nothing to do with it, unless your definition of stupid includes Einstein, who also had trouble getting to places.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 8:02am

    "No officer, I didn't commit that crime. Just check my GPS data and you'll see that my car... Umm, I mean that I was across town when it happened. Yeah, my GPS data will show that I was nowhere near 118 West Broadway at 9:52 last night when the back door of that jewelry store was broken into..."

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    JB, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 9:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Why so many

    10 times would be the definition of retarded not stupid. By the way I did not call you stupid, you did. I don't think you are smart enough to be stupid if it takes you 10 times to remember a simple thing as a direction.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 11:55am

    Re: Re: Re: So What!

    OK - neil. Grae is talking about pre 1984 and youre saying youd like to be part of it. Sad. Youre probably OK with the Patroit Act as well.

    * Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. * Ben Franklin

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    GPS Tracking, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 3:27pm

    tracking -- not navigation

    It's not the turn-by-turn gps navigation devices they are using; it's gps vehicle tracking devices that police are using. These are devices that provide online tracking from any computer.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Why so many

    I use my phone's GPS to get traffic information to route around traffic snarls. There are lots of places that are difficult to find but the GPS gives some really bad directions sometimes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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