Feeds

US Supremes to hear warrantless GPS tracking case

Surveillance in the digital age

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

The US Supreme Court has agreed to decide if the US Constitution requires police to obtain a search warrant before secretly monitoring location-tracking devices planted on the vehicles of suspects

Monday's agreement to decide whether the Fourth Amendment bars warrantless GPS tracking of criminal suspects came at the urging of the Obama Administration.

In August, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that FBI agents should have obtained a warrant before planting a GPS device on the vehicle of a suspected drug dealer. The ruling, which overturned a lower-court decision, ordered that all GPS evidence presented at trial be thrown out, effectively reversing Jones's conviction.

The outcome of the case could have profound consequences for millions of Americans. The GPS device that was secretly affixed to Jones's Jeep Cherokee allowed agents to track his position every ten seconds for a full month and was accurate to within 100 feet.

The device yielded more than 3,100 pages worth of data, according to documents filed in the case. The case comes as more and more law enforcement agencies are adopting similar surveillance measures.

Police Los Angeles, for example, are outfitted with air guns that can shoot GPS-enabled darts at passing cars, lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union have claimed. They've added that police in Arlington and Fairfax counties near Washington used GPS devices 229 times from 2005 to 2007.

The appeals court ruled that the GPS devices revealed such intimate details about the target that they violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures unless law enforcement officers obtained a court warrant based on probable cause.

“A person who knows all of another's travels can deduce whether he is a weekly churchgoer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups – and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts,” the three-judge panel wrote in the August opinion.

Prosecutors with the US Justice Department disagreed. In a filing asking the Supreme Court to review the case, they said citizens have no reasonable expectation to privacy in their movements from one place to another. Their application asked that the appeals court decision be overturned.

The case won't be heard until after the start of Supreme Court's new term in October. More from the Freedom to Tinker blog and the ACLU is here and here. ®

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.