Feeds

US Supremes liken GPS tracking to 1984's Big Brother

24/7 surveillance, no warrant needed (maybe)

New hybrid storage solutions

If the Obama administration wins a crucial case testing when police may use GPS devices to track American's whereabouts, investigators would be free to attach them to all nine members of the nation's highest court without a warrant.

That blunt assessment came not from one of the many critics blasting the controversial practice, but rather from Michael Dreeben, the deputy US solicitor general who argued the case on Tuesday before the Supreme Court. According to legal scholar and blogger Orin Kerr, who attended the hearing, the justices had mixed reactions to that specter, with some comparing the continuous monitoring to a chapter out of George Orwell's 1984 and others struggling to find a way to deem it reasonable.

The hearing comes in the case of a man indicted for cocaine trafficking in the Washington, DC area. FBI agents secretly planted the device on his Jeep Cherokee while it was parked on private property without ever securing a warrant based on probable cause. The device, which allowed agents to track the suspect's whereabouts 24 hours a day for a full month, was accurate to within 100 feet and yielded more than 3,100 pages worth of data, according to court filings.

Attorneys for the defendant challenged the surveillance as a violation of constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures. Last year, a three-judge appeals panel unanimously agreed and threw out the conviction.

Federal prosecutors challenged that ruling and earlier this year the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

According to Kerr, even justices who appeared troubled by the surveillance labored to find a clear rationale for prohibiting it.

“Merely watching a suspect in a city street was obviously not a search or seizure,” he wrote. “Does that change if you switch to video cameras? Lots of cameras? Beepers? GPS devices? Where do you draw the line?”

A PDF transcript of the hearing is here.

The hearing came the same day that Wired.com reported that a California man has come forward after finding two GPS devices secretly attached to his SUV. While a reporter and photographer met with the man in public places, police cars monitored the meetings from afar but never identified themselves.

A decision in the case of United States v. Jones is likely by the end of June, when the justices usually recess for the summer. In the meantime, readers looking for a way to thwart overzealous investigators might consider self-help remedies. This £25 Anti-Tracker GPS Signal Jammer, for instance, is advertised as coming with a range of 10 meters. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Leak of '5 MEELLLION Gmail passwords' creates security flap
You should be OK if you're not using ANCIENT password
Google recommends pronounceable passwords
Super Chrome goes into battle with Mr Mxyzptlk
Reddit wipes clean leaked celeb nudie pics, tells users to zip it
Now we've had all THAT TRAFFIC, we 'deplore' this theft
Enigmail PGP plugin forgets to encrypt mail sent as blind copies
User now 'waiting for the bad guys come and get me with their water-boards'
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
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.