Privacy

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
fbi, gps, tracking, warrant, yasir afifi



Student Who Found GPS Device On His Car Due To Reddit Comment Sues The FBI

from the don't-mess-with-reddit dept

Last fall, we wrote about the bizarre situation of Yasir Afifi, a student here in California who discovered a GPS tracking device on his car during an oil change, and then posted photos of the device on Reddit. Following that, the FBI showed up at his house demanding the tracking device back. It later turned out that the key reason behind tracking him was a random comment on Reddit that -- if read in context -- did not represent any kind of threat or warning that should have resulted in FBI surveillance. But, of course, since there's almost no oversight on who the FBI gets to spy on, it didn't care and just started tracking Afifi.

Afifi has now sued the government over the tracking action, claiming that it was a violation of his civil rights. There are some differences of opinion in the courts over whether or not the government needs a warrant to place GPS devices on cars, which provides some background for this case. There's a bit of a circuit split on that right now, with the government (obviously) insisting that no warrant is needed. Part of the goal of this lawsuit appears to be to get another ruling on this issue to push it forward. Given the history on this subject, I would guess that Afifi will likely lose the lawsuit, but the possibility that it actually does go in his favor makes the case worth paying attention to.

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  1. identicon
    Rekrul, 5 Mar 2011 @ 9:07am

    With all the discussion about what's legal for the FBI in this incident, I'd be curious to know what's considered legal for the person who finds an unknown device attached to their car.

    If you have no idea what it is or how it got there, do you have any legal obligation to find out or to keep it safe? Is there any law against tampering with or disposing of an unknown device, or unknown origin, that you happen to find attached to your vehicle?

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