US Supreme Court Rules Government GPS Trackers Can Break Fourth Amendment

Supreme Court Rules Government GPS Trackers Can Break Fourth Amendment

The Supreme Court has confirmed in a ruling that if the government places a GPS tracker on someone's person or their belongings, the act counts as a search -- something that remains protected by the Fourth Amendment.

As part of a case referred to as Grady v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court heard about how Torrey Dale Grady -- twice-convicted as a sex offender -- was made to wear a GPS monitor at all times by North Carolina officials. In court, Grady challenged this, claiming it qualified as an unreasonable search. The Supreme Court agreed, explaining:

The only theory we discern […] is that the State's system of nonconsensual satellite-based monitoring does not entail a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. That theory is inconsistent with this Court's precedents.

It also listed some Supreme Court precedents to make its case, including a case where a tracker placed on a car without a warrant counted as unreasonable search. "It doesn't matter what the context is, and it doesn't matter whether it's a car or a person," Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Freedom Foundation, told The Atlantic. "Putting that tracking device on a car or a person is a search."

Still, the Fourth Amendment takes poor account of digital technology generally, and courts have only ruled on a small number of cases involving GPS data. At some point, as Lynch points out to The Atlantic, the justice system will need to establish how geo-location data -- now prolific in phones, cars, watches and more -- is governed and protected. In the meantime, though, North Carolina better rethink its policy on issuing GPS trackers to sex offenders. [The Atlantic, Washington Post]

Picture: Canned Muffins/Flickr

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Comments

    Gotta love a country that makes the rules up as it goes.

      That would be all (most) countries.
      Things change.
      If you prefer to live under unchanging rules, move to the Middle East.

        It was a quick quip, a joke man! Are you really so humourless? Those countries, don't like humour, so they may be better suited to you.

          The American constitution holds as much water as soggy toilet paper.

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