PublishedJanuary 23, 2012

Supreme Court Rules Against GPS Monitoring Without A Warrant

The U.S. Supreme Court said today that installing a GPS monitoring device constitutes a search and is therefore prohibited by the 4th amendment without a warrant. The decision that such a search is illegal was unanimous, but the justices differed in their reasoning.

The majority of the court ruled 5-4 that placing the geo-tracking device on the car is trespassing on the car, while the minority wrote that was too narrow a way to decide on this form of electronic eavesdropping. Justice Sotomayor voted with the majority but also agreed with the minority’s rational.

The following comments can be attributed to Computer & Communications Industry Association President & CEO Ed Black:

“We are glad the Supreme Court recognized the inherent privacy breech of placing GPS tracking devices on vehicles without warrants. Technology can at times provide all too efficient tools for government to surveil and spy on its citizens and it is mportant that interpretation of the law keeps up with new technology. So we appreciate the Supreme Court taking up the case and the unanimous disapproval.

“We are heartened to see that five members of the court are concerned with geo-location tracking – regardless of how that information is gathered. While the majority’s ruling sounds a cautionary note, we are concerned it doesn’t go far enough and will not address newer, growing geo-location tracking via cell phones.

“Protecting citizens’ privacy rights from government surveillance is an ongoing challenge and this is one arena for concern. We hope Congress and the executive branch heed the signal to be extra vigilant in protecting citizens’ rights – even in areas of criminal investigation.”

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