Creating Responsible Netizens

Every move you make… December 1, 2011

Filed under: dean — dean @ 4:28 pm

In this post, we’ll cover the GPS tracking discussed in the previous post. To reiterate:

  • You go to school and debate whether you should sit in the front seat or kick it in the back seat. If you are driven to school, chances are there is a GPS system in your or your parents’ car.

Let’s start with the GPS systems. GPS works by triangulating your position with three or more satellites. While it’s certainly a time saver and may have saved you or your parents many times from whipping out a map or – heaven forbid – asking someone for directions, it’s powerful technology that can be harnessed for good or bad.

Luckily, most consumer GPS manufacturers claim that they don’t track data from GPS systems. Since you don’t have to register the GPS with your personal information, they won’t be able to attach a name to whatever data you send via satellites. Nevertheless, they would still be able to determine at least some aspects of personal information if they really wanted too (by finding out what locations you frequent, and what place you always return to, or “home”).

Paranoid frog.

What poses a greater concern is the abuse of GPS tracking from law enforcement. Previously, if the police was tailing a suspect for a certain amount of time, they would have to deploy a considerably large force and the suspect would have to be high risk, or “worth the effort”. They would arouse a lot of suspicion in the subject, as well. (Who wouldn’t notice if they had a squad of black cars following them wherever they went? At least, that’s how it works in the movies.) However, now it is conceivable that they can slap a GPS tracker to the bottom of your car and call it a day.

This is exactly what is under debate right now. On November 8th 2011, the Supreme Court expressed concerns about the police usage of GPS tracking on vehicles. This is due to their review of an ongoing case, United States v. Antoine Jones. Antoine Jones was suspected of drug trafficking, and after obtaining a warrant, the police tracked his Jeep via GPS for 30 days. Unfortunately, they installed the GPS tracking device one day after the warrant period, and not in the correct location. The police uncovered a lot of evidence that was used to in court against him, but Jones argued that it was unconstitutional the way the information was collected.

Right now, according to a Reuters article, it seems as if the Supreme Court is leaning against the use of GPS tracking devices in law enforcement. Justice Elena Kagan said that GPS tracking “seems too much to me”. Justice Ginsburg said that “only a person’s home would be secure from intrusion”. A ruling is expected to be announced before June.