Police Using GPS: Violation Of Privacy Or High Tech Tailing?

from the questions-questions-questions dept

A few years back police attached a GPS device to a murder suspects car, which proved useful when the guy drove to the gravesite where he had buried the victim (his daughter). Based on that evidence, the father was convicted, but now his lawyers are arguing that the GPS device was an invasion of privacy and the evidence shouldn’t be permitted. The police say it’s the same thing as if they were tailing him in a police car. His lawyers respond that would only be true if the police car were invisible and actually in the suspect’s car. It’s always interesting to see how technology changes the way we think about certain legal issues. On the one hand, I can easily see how there’s a risk. What if police could simply attach a GPS device to your car all the time (or worse, tap into the data from an already installed GPS device?). Is that a violation of privacy? At the same time, though, this method did work to catch a murderer. I would think that, in the end, the real issue is how much evidence police had to get a warrant to place the device on the car. As long as the evidence can justify it, then I don’t think I have a problem with it.

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Comments on “Police Using GPS: Violation Of Privacy Or High Tech Tailing?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

The future is going to suck hard... get used to it

…and not just for “criminals”.

Insurance companies have started using post-crash black-boxes to decline coverage (gee, I thought that’s why they called it “accident” insurance… what’s the fscking poing of buying a nice fast sports car if you can’t drive it the way it was engineered to be driven?)

How long before you start getting your piss-test automatically at the company toilet? OK, what are you going to do when you get a pink slip for “taking too many breaks” then the company jon actually diagnosed you as boarderline diabetic?

What happens when our instrumented refrigerators, which alert the user to rotting food, start calling the police when they accidently mistake poppy-seeds for something more neferious?

These things will happen… it is simply a matter of time.

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

I'm on the fence on this one

As much as I like the idea of putting a child-killer in jail, I have to wonder about the civil rights of the individual.

Did the police obtain any sort of court order prior to planting the GPS device, or were they acting on their own initiative?

As much as I respect the boys in blue, not all of them are 100% above board and some of them break the law in their effort to enforce it.

In this great country, we are granted certain inalienable rights including the fact that we have to be assumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Too often the cops “know that he did it!” and start overstepping the line in an effort to get the evidence to prove “what they already know”.

I don’t envy them, it’s got to be frustrating as hell to know that someone commited a crime and not be able to prove it.

Rick Colosimo (user link) says:

Re: Knowing vs. proving

I have to disagree. The only way that you can *know* someone committed the crime is to prove it. Not being able to prove it in court is a different matter, but it generally means that there wasn’t enough pre-existing evidence to reasonably suspect someone.

Finally, the best way to think about these types of issues, even though there’s an existing case, is to focus on the overall system, the effects on all of us. There’s no magic search that only affects people who are factually guilty.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm on the fence on this one

Did the police obtain any sort of court order prior to planting the GPS device, or were they acting on their own initiative?

According to the local NPR coverage in Seattle (other end of the state, but still…) there was a warrant. The actual court action is an attempt to get the warrant (and thus the evidence obtained via the warrant) thrown out of court.

jim says:

If the police want to know where you go and where you’ve been, they will place a gps without a warrant. I The use is justified because a person on a public road way cannot assume privacy, sorry I forget where I read that. Police use these to track suspects of crimes as well as ‘fish that got away’, or anyone else that they want to keep tabs on. I am sure you can see how much easier this makes things for them. Looking at relative low cost, the obvious benefits, and the lack of legal recourse from victims, the practice is commonplace. What are you going to do assuming you detect the device? The police know this as well or better. The unfortunate truth is, police just need to not like you to completely monitor all of what you do.

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