Feds Tell Supreme Court They Should Be Able To Stick A GPS Device On Your Car Without A Warrant
from the 4th-amendment,-what's-that? dept
In the federal government’s apparent ongoing quest to stamp out any remnants of the 4th Amendment, the administration has now officially petitioned the Supreme Court to let it stick GPS devices on cars with no warrant. This seems like the sort of case that the Supreme Court will actually be interested in hearing. That’s because a variety of federal courts have ruled that it’s legal to put a tracking device on your car without a warrant… However, last summer, the DC Circuit appeals court said that such GPS tracking, if done for a long time, crosses the line and becomes illegal. The standard the court used was pretty vague, but now there’s something of a circuit split, and that’s what generally interests the Supreme Court.
Either way, the government’s position is clear: it shouldn’t need a warrant to track you. The feds seem to be playing a bit of a questionable game with your privacy here. They claim that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in your daily movements. To some extent that’s true. If you’re out in public, and people can see you, then it’s not private. But the real question here is somewhat more complex: if you don’t see anyone following you, do you have an expectation of privacy in your long-term aggregate movements? I would think there’s a much stronger argument there. I would think that just being spotted in public, or even followed in public, is reasonable as there’s no real expectation of privacy. But the calculus may, in fact, change when we’re talking about the aggregate information of pretty much all of your daily movements over a long term… especially when the person might never realize that anyone is watching them. In such situations, it seems like there is an expectation of privacy about that aggregate info.
Other than the DC court, however, most courts haven’t recognized that difference between snippets of daily movements and the aggregation of daily movements. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Supreme Court won’t recognize the difference either, and yet another prong of the 4th Amendment will disappear forever.