Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The eyes have it

According to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, it is not unreasonable for the police to place a GPS tracking device on your car without a warrant. Holding that there was no difference between monitoring the whereabouts of a car via computer and using stake-outs and "tails," the Court had no problem with the devices.
"By holding that this kind of surveillance doesn't impair an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, the panel hands the government the power to track the movements of every one of us, every day of our lives." -- Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
For those of you who don't think it's that big of a deal for the cops to place a tracking device on your car, how would you feel if someone were tracking your every movement? Every time you went to the grocery store, the liquor store, the bookstore, a restaurant or bar, or to meet with your significant other. And all of this with no evidence that you ever committed a crime.

The argument that it's more cost-effective to install a GPS device on a car than to assign a surveillance team should never trump the 4th Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure. The question should never be what is most efficient for the government. The question should be what best protects an individual's right to be free from Big Brother's roving eye.

How much government intrusion is okay? At what point does it become obtrusive? What about implanting tracking devices in people and following their every movement?

Over on the other side of the country, the D.C. Court of Appeals found that the continuous use of a GPS device without a warrant did constitute an unreasonable search.

See also:

"Appeals court OKs warrantless GPS tracking by feds," Reuters (8/27/2010)

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