A routine visit to the mechanic by a Redditor and his friend turned up this ominous-looking device nestled right next to the exhaust on his friend's car.
After promptly ruling out a bomb, other Redditors helped correctly identify the black device as a Guardian ST820 - a GPS-tracking unit made by Cobham and used exclusively by the army and law enforcement. According to the poster, the friend's (now dead) father had ties to the Muslim religious community and was the subject of quite a bit of FBI interest. That interest also extended to the son, who has supposedly been on an FBI watchlist since last year.
"Why my friend is being tracked is anyone's guess, but the only thing I think it could be is his connection to his father," he says. "The FBI tried to get in touch with my friend a few months ago and he referred them to his lawyer and hasn't heard from them since." Redditors have thus far suggested sending the unit to France, Uganda, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Yemen, Oceania, United Kingdom, Fiji, Estonia, Denmark and Somalia (in that order), the Chilean mine and Ron Paul's car.
According to the poster, his friend's car was also impounded for three months, which is when he believes the tracking unit was first placed on the car.
Sadly, such a move isn't without legal precedent. This past August, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that placing tracking devices underneath cars isn't actually a breach of the Fourth Amendment, so long as law enforcement officials think someone is a criminal. Furthermore, this can be done even if your car is parked in your own driveway - a location that does not hold the same reasonable expectation of privacy as, say, a garage. Currently, California and eight other western US states recognise this ruling, according to Adam Cohen, a lawyer and reporter for Time.
Thankfully, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seems to disagree with this insanity. In a ruling last August, the latter court said that tracking anyone for an extended period of time with GPS does in fact constitute an invasion of privacy and should require a warrant. Yeah, we'll go out on a limb and agree.
Stay tuned for the inevitable Supreme Court decision. And in the mean time, we'd suggest parking in your garage… if you have one. [Reddit]