Another Court Says Police Don't Violate The Law In Putting A GPS Device On Your Car

from the tracking-you-in-public? dept

We first discussed this issue way back in 2003, wondering whether it was really a violation of privacy for police to put a GPS tracking device on a suspect's car. In 2005, a court said it was perfectly legal, though there were concerns about what this meant. We're seeing the same concerns as another court has ruled the same way. The reasoning and the logic is effectively the same: if you are traveling on public roads, anyone could (theoretically) drive behind you and see where you are going -- even without a warrant. So is it really a violation of privacy if that tracking is done by a little black box attached to your car instead of a big black box with four wheels?

Of course, the flipside to that, is that if you are driving you can also see (for the most part) if there is another car following you and that other car cannot follow you onto private property that you own. A hidden GPS device is quite different on those points. So while the courts seem to be coming down on the side of this not being a violation of privacy, I can definitely see where privacy advocates are troubled by these rulings. The fact that they effectively suggest the police can simply put a hidden GPS device on any car for no reason at all raises plenty of questions -- especially in an era when information can and is regularly abused.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: gps, police, privacy, surveillance

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Dave, 12 May 2009 @ 8:50am

    Re: GPS device on car

    I agree with you Rob. It is almost certainly possible today for the police (and possibly otheres) to locate and/or track your whereabouts via OnStar and I'm not so sure that anyone has cause to complain about being tracked.

    Autos have always had serial numbers and license plates for the putpose of identification. Every state in the U.S. requires a visible, readable license plate that declares traceable info about the vehicle. Gps is merely a more efficient method of doing the same. I believe we can expect a time in the near future when this type of device will be built into every vehicle at the point of its manufacture.

    I believe it has already been determined by the SCOTUS that there is no expectatoion of privacy in public. That means anytime you are not inside your home or a changing room, toilet stall or simular location, you can expect to be observed, possibly filmed or otherwise be under surveillance. It's a brave new world...

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.