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Supreme Court rules unanimously in GPS case

A recent case highlighted new challenges for privacy in the modern world. Cops placed a GPS tracker on the car of a criminal suspect without getting a warrant. Fortunately, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court decision that ruled that this was a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution which prevents unreasonable searches without a warrant.

The court, however, declined to go further. Issues on other types of electronic surveillance will be left to another day.

A win for privacy . . .

This seems like a reasonable ruling.

Giving privacy-rights advocates and civil libertarians an important victory, a federal appeals court ruled that police conducted an illegal warrant-less search by planting a GPS device in a drug-case suspect’s car and tracking him for a month.

In ruling Friday that the police violated the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said that by almost any measure, planting a GPS device, then following a person for several weeks conflicted with an individual’s reasonable expectations for privacy.

It will be interesting to see how the law develops for personal spying and private investigators.

Privacy in the digital age

Everything has changed. In the past ten years we’ve reached a tipping point where technology involving surveillance and the sharing of information has become so pervasive and inexpensive that we can no longer assume that our actions or words will be kept private.

Add in the dangers posed by terrorists and criminals, and now we have a greater appetite for compromising privacy in exchange for greater security.

We started this blog to address the tensions between the competing needs for security and privacy. We’ll also address the tools out there that citizens can use to shield their privacy, along with the tools that can be used to get information . . . even about others.

In the end, we will need to make choices about how to balance these interests as a society, and each individual will need to come to their own conclusions about how to live in the new environment. For example, if you could spy on your spouse or significant other, would you do it? Would you place a GPS device on their car? How much surveillance is appropriate regarding your children? Get used to these difficult questions.

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