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Warrantless GPS Tracking Is Legal, Says WI Court 594

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-one-o'clock-do-you-know-where-your-citizens-are dept.
PL/SQL Guy writes "A Wisconsin appeals court ruled Thursday that police can attach GPS trackers to cars to secretly track anybody's movements without obtaining search warrants. As the law currently stands, the court said police can mount GPS on cars to track people without violating their constitutional rights — even if the drivers aren't suspects. Officers do not need to get warrants beforehand because GPS tracking does not involve a search or a seizure, wrote Madison Judge Paul Lundsten."
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Warrantless GPS Tracking Is Legal, Says WI Court

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  • But... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How can warrantless GPS tracking be legal while warrantless car searching is illegal. I am sure that a higher court will reverse this ruling... but it is scary to speculate about what happens if it is not reversed.

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 1729 (581437) <slashdot1729@gmai l . c om> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:17PM (#27897775)

      How can warrantless GPS tracking be legal while warrantless car searching is illegal.

      Police don't need a warrant to follow a car, and in my opinion, GPS tracking is more akin to tailing a car than searching through it. I'm not thrilled by this ruling, but it doesn't seem blatantly unconstitutional.

      • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by st0rmshad0w (412661) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:29PM (#27897883)

        So when/if I find such a device on my car it belongs to me doesn't it? And I'm not giving it back. And I'm not paying any bill they send me.

        • Re:But... (Score:5, Funny)

          by Qzukk (229616) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:48PM (#27898051) Journal

          I've got a better idea: demand to see a warrant to search the car when they come back to get it.

          • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by dimeglio (456244) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:41PM (#27898503)

            If this is legal for the police, I presume it is legal for anyone else who wishes to track someone. So, with that thought, here is something great for valentine's day: lingerie equipped with GPS tracking [dailymail.co.uk]. The "boyfriend" version is bound to be more popular because of the strategically placed bulge.

            • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Belial6 (794905) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @03:01PM (#27898649)
              Or better yet, putting GPS on police cars.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by tagno25 (1518033)

                Or better yet, putting GPS on police cars.

                and give the public access to them sot that robberies can happen without cops.

              • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

                by oneirophrenos (1500619) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @03:38PM (#27898909)

                Or better yet, putting GPS on police cars.

                This is actually a very good idea. With all these invasions of privacy imposed on citizens, the police should be subjected to such surveillance as well. How about civilian squads monitoring the movements and actions of police units? Think of it as a kind of inverted neighbourhood watch. Whenever a cop roughs someone up, a police-watcher would be there with a camera to put it all on tape. Try to negate that in court!

                • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

                  by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @04:43PM (#27899361)

                  NO.

                  The right to free association also imbues privacy of that association. Such tracking without probable cause violates privacy, free speech, due process, and is high in calories.

                  Police have a right to follow me, as I have a right to make it difficult for them to do so without probable cause. My presence is my business, and not theirs.

                • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

                  by SpeedyDX (1014595) <speedyphoenix@gmaiELIOTl.com minus poet> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @06:39PM (#27900139)

                  You'd think video evidence would be enough to expose and convict police officers on a power trip. But a look at the Robert Dziekanski case [wikipedia.org] that many Canadians have been following for the past year and a half shows otherwise. There is a video of the incident [youtube.com] that has been made public by a witness at the scene. Immediately after the incident, the RCMP made multiple statements that were blatantly inconsistent with the video evidence (e.g., it was originally claimed that Dziekanski kept throwing objects around after the RCMP arrived, which was conclusively shown to be false by the video.) and testimony from other emergency response personnel (e.g., the RCMP claimed that an officer was properly monitoring Dziekanski's vitals until medical help arrived. It turned out that the officer in question did not renew his expired first aid certification, and a fireman later testified that the RCMP officers barred him from any attempt to check Dziekanski's vitals.). The Crown prosecutors opted to not pursue criminal charges related to the death of Robert Dziekanski. There is an inquiry investigating the circumstances in the case [wikipedia.org] that is currently underway, but the prosecutors have thus far maintained that there is no reasonable prospect of conviction. In fact, the RCMP threatened not to participate in the inquiry until the Crown decided whether or not to pursue criminal charges.

                  Of course, the whole situation has not been resolved yet, as the judge overseeing the inquiry may be able to make recommendations based on his findings. But this situation has left many Canadians with very shaky feelings about the RCMP force as a whole.

                  And to drive the point home even further: They don't have to negate video evidence in court if they can keep it out of court.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by More_Cowbell (957742) *

                  Whenever a cop roughs someone up, a police-watcher would be there with a camera to put it all on tape. Try to negate that in court!

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_King#Trial_of_the_Officers [wikipedia.org]
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_tase_me_bro#Allegations_of_excessive_force [wikipedia.org]
                  Not to rain on your parade, but last I heard catching police brutality on tape doesn't necessarily mean much will be done about it.

            • Re:But... (Score:4, Interesting)

              by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:34PM (#27899703) Homepage Journal

              If this is legal for the police, I presume it is legal for anyone else who wishes to track someone.

              Unfortunately, police are granted many powers that citizens are not given.

              Just try to hold someone against their will and search them, for example. Or wear a gun on your hip here in Chicago. Or force someone off the road. Or force a hooker to service you with the threat of arrest.

              By the way, I live near the Chicago Police Academy and walk my dog by there regularly. A few weeks ago, there were two huge Blackwater semis there and their were a bunch of dudes in paramilitary gear with no insignias giving training to police cadets.

              It's comforting to know that we now have mercenaries training police. It's bad enough that we allow these mercenaries to represent the US in armed conflict. I wonder if besides their (extremely high) salaries they are allowed all the plunder and rape they want. Thank you, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld for renewing and rewarding this great tradition.

              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by c_forq (924234)

                there were two huge Blackwater semis

                I am going to call B.S., unless they were using former Blackwater semis they picked up for training. Blackwater doesn't exist anymore. It is now Xe.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by PopeRatzo (965947) *

                  Blackwater doesn't exist anymore. It is now Xe.

                  If Blackwater "doesn't exist" anymore, someone needs to tell their webmaster (see www.blackwaterusa.com).

                  As a matter of fact, if you visit www.blackwaterusa.com (for the company that "doesn't exist anymore") you'll find that they offer professional training to police departments. They run the U.S. Training Center Midwest at Mt. Carrol, Illinois and they'll even sell you a "Blackwater" hat or tour jacket. Maybe they've changed the name of their mercenary divisi

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          So when/if I find such a device on my car it belongs to me doesn't it? And I'm not giving it back. And I'm not paying any bill they send me.

          Better yet, stick it on a truck, preferably one traveling over the road; or leave it on a city bus or subway.

          • Re:But... (Score:5, Funny)

            by Stanislav_J (947290) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:36PM (#27898475)

            Better yet, stick it on a truck, preferably one traveling over the road; or leave it on a city bus or subway.

            I can thin of even more creative scenarios:

            -- Cruise by the local donut shop just before dawn and stick it on a cop's car

            -- Attach it to someone's boat when they appear to be about to hit the lake for some fishing

            -- Package it up and mail it to some random destination, preferably in an obscure country

            -- I dunno...if it's small and light enough, tie it onto a migrating Canadian goose?

            • Re:But... (Score:4, Informative)

              by DigitAl56K (805623) * on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:17AM (#27902691)

              -- Cruise by the local donut shop just before dawn and stick it on a cop's car

              Later, GPS evidence reveals you visited half a dozen crime scenes that day, including returning to the scene that sparked the original investigation!

        • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jonnycando (1551609) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:28PM (#27898423) Journal

          So when/if I find such a device on my car it belongs to me doesn't it? And I'm not giving it back. And I'm not paying any bill they send me.

          If I find such a device on my car, not only shall I not return it nor pay for it I shall feel free to destroy it, as I did not put it there, and do not want it there.

      • Re:But... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by theArtificial (613980) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:31PM (#27897905)
        Isn't this a moot point with mobile phones?
      • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by laughingcoyote (762272) <barghesthowl@NOSpAm.excite.com> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:35PM (#27897947) Journal

        How can warrantless GPS tracking be legal while warrantless car searching is illegal.

        Police don't need a warrant to follow a car, and in my opinion, GPS tracking is more akin to tailing a car than searching through it. I'm not thrilled by this ruling, but it doesn't seem blatantly unconstitutional.

        I'm not quite sure you're correct there. It's rather ironic that the case here involved someone suspected of stalking. Stalking also can be no more than following someone around and watching them in public places, yet it's something most areas have laws against. The only difference here is that the "stalker" is a police officer. Do you have any doubts that if it were found that the person suspected of "stalking" had covertly put GPS trackers on his victim's cars, they wouldn't nail him in a second? It would seem to me that if this type of behavior would be potentially criminal if done by someone who's not a police officer, it should take a warrant for a police officer to engage in it.

        The clear intent of the Fourth Amendment is that the police can't pry into our lives without convincing a judge they have probable cause to believe we're involved in a crime. Even then, they can't just fish, they have to tell the judge exactly what crime, why they believe we're involved in it, and what evidence they believe their search will find.

        Just because technology may now allow them to do such prying without physically kicking in a door doesn't mean we should allow surveillance on anyone at any time. As far as I'm concerned, gathering data on a specific person's movements, habits, etc., through surveillance, is a type of search (one is checking into that person's personal life, using methods that would routinely be thought to be invasive even if they are in public, and ironically here most of those methods would trigger the very anti-stalking laws being enforced here), and should be subject to Fourth Amendment protection, including the requirement for a warrant.

        • Re:But... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by johnlcallaway (165670) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:50PM (#27898059)
          It's not illegal for me to follow someone around if I'm on public property.

          It's only illegal after they have told me to stop it and show emotional distress or physical threats as a reason.

          As the court said, the use would be legal as long as the same information could have been gathered using normal observational techniques. There are plenty of opinions regarding this type of public activity, and there will be plenty more.

          The Constitution provides only guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure. There has to be a balance between protecting against fishing expeditions and letting people with a preponderance of evidence get away because of delays in getting warrants. A police officer can walk past a car and look into it and if he see's a dead body, he can open the car and search it. If he sees a what could be drugs, he may have to go get a search warrant. One is a reasonable search, there is a body with pools of blood in the back seat. The other is not, the white powder could be sugar.

          Police have always been able to 'tail' suspects. I feel this is no different. If police start attaching GPS devices to cars of people not accused of any crimes 'just to see where he goes' and then arresting them for speeding, I'm sure the courts will toss those out using exactly the same type of finding.
          • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:30PM (#27898435)

            Police have always been able to 'tail' suspects. I feel this is no different. If police start attaching GPS devices to cars of people not accused of any crimes 'just to see where he goes' and then arresting them for speeding, I'm sure the courts will toss those out using exactly the same type of finding.

            You, oddly enough, fail to see the problem differentiating both situations.

            The act of tailing a suspect by a police officer requires use of manforce, which prevents it from being widely abused.

            Given the constantly decreasing costs of electronics manufacture, even if not now, there will be a point where it becomes possible to constantly monitor large part of the population without extraordinary expenses. Especially if you are doing this to simply gather data on people in case sometimes you decide to go after a particular individual.

            I fail to see how this is difficult to envision.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by narcberry (1328009)

              A police force is not legally constrained by their manforce. That is a physical constraint.

              The use of GPS is consistent with the law, and a smart decision to work around current physical constraints.

              Abusing GPS would be the same as abusing normal 'tailing' techniques. Ie following you around all day until they catch you speeding.

          • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:43PM (#27898521)

            When over time GPS tracking becomes "normal observational techniques", would the police not then be able to ticket the driver for speeding? Right now a police cruiser that is tailing someone can give them a ticket for speeding. If GPS tracking is thought of as the same as tailing, why would it be different. Right now people may see a difference, how about in 10 years? how about 25 years?

            Right now there is a limit on how many people can be trailed by a cruiser based on actual numbers of the police force. How does this translate to GPS tracking? Seems like some over zealous politician could get thru funding to have one tracker per citizen.

          • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by marco.antonio.costa (937534) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @03:24PM (#27898831)

            Police have always been able to 'tail' suspects. I feel this is no different.

            Except that tailing you does not need them to "secretly attach a GPS device" on your property. Yep. Not different at all.

            How about skipping the car and implanting the tracker on, say, your shoulder? Or if that's too invasive, require you to carry the device at all times?

          • Re:But... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by misexistentialist (1537887) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @03:33PM (#27898879)
            If the courts claim that GPS tracking doesn't require a warrant, it would be "reasonable" to track every vehicle to improve public safety by automatically enforcing 100% compliance with traffic laws.

            Really the decision is bizarre. Are the police allowed to bug your car since you're in public? Is it OK for you to put a GPS tracker on your girlfriend's car?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by GooberToo (74388)

          Super insightful!

          Seems like the judge just gave the green light to place tracking units on all police cars and make that information public. That way all the criminals know where to avoid the police. According to the Judge, that's perfectly legal.

        • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @03:32PM (#27898873)
          I think a good measure of what a the police can do without a warrant, is what a normal person can do without a warrant. I can't tap the Judges calls, therefore if a cop wants to tap my phone they should need a warrant. If I can't get the GPS logs of the Judges car, then a cop should need a warrant to do the same to me. If this is information our public servants feel we should not have about them, then there *is* an expectation of privacy on that information.

          I think enforcement of this type of equality of "public" information will keep Judges and cops in line better in general. Set it into law that as soon as the Police don't need a warrant for some information, we get the information too about them and their families.

          Of course in the real world YMMV.
        • Re:But... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by causality (777677) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @03:40PM (#27898925)

          Just because technology may now allow them to do such prying without physically kicking in a door doesn't mean we should allow surveillance on anyone at any time. As far as I'm concerned, gathering data on a specific person's movements, habits, etc., through surveillance, is a type of search (one is checking into that person's personal life, using methods that would routinely be thought to be invasive even if they are in public, and ironically here most of those methods would trigger the very anti-stalking laws being enforced here), and should be subject to Fourth Amendment protection, including the requirement for a warrant.

          I've always felt that way about how they sometimes use canine units to search for drugs. At least in the USA, it would be illegal for a cop to randomly search your car for no reason even if he did find drugs. But if that same officer has a dog and the dog starts barking at your car, he can now legally charge you with whatever contraband he finds. To me those two situations are exactly alike; the dog in this case is just the device with which the search is performed. Yet one is legal and the other is not.

          I guess you might call this legalism or Phariseeism, in that both situations are the same except for a minor technicality. Because of that technicality (whether the cop uses his own eyes to search or the dog's nose to do the same thing) they're somehow considered completely different situations for which different rules are applied. I can't imagine that any judge or other authority who actually respects freedom would ever support this. I have to assume that all of these fine distinctions and splitting of hairs are to provide excuses so that the cops can do whatever it is they want to do while completely ignoring the intent behind the Fourth Amendment.

      • Re:But... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by FooAtWFU (699187) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:53PM (#27898097) Homepage
        My question: If you find the device on the car, are you allowed to remove it? Or would it be illegal somehow (tampering with investigation of some sort)?

        Now suppose they just put these devices on everyone's car, and used them to send remote speeding tickets and other such nonsense...

        • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ray-auch (454705) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:07PM (#27898227)

          In some places, and for some people, standard advice if you find a "device" attached to your car is to call out the bomb (disposal) squad...

          Now doing that for a police gps tracker is going to waste a lot of police time but finding an unknown device under your car is legitiamte reason to call them out. In the US you could probably then sue them for emotional distress or something for thinking someone has put a bomb under your car. That would probably be more lucrative than ebaying the tracker as well...

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by sexybomber (740588)

          My question: If you find the device on the car, are you allowed to remove it? Or would it be illegal somehow (tampering with investigation of some sort)?

          Oh, undoubtedly. You think you're going to get away with acting against the will of the police? They'll charge you with something just to spite you. In New York, we have this convenient little crime called "Obstructing Governmental Administration"; basically, if you do anything the police don't like, they'll charge you with it:

          A person is guilty of obstr

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It rests on the premise of whether or not your car is your property.

        According to the judge it is not.

        The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

        He focuses on the bold and forgets the italics. This is a blatant abuse of the Constitution.

        Next they will say that lashing people is not blatantly unconstitutional because people are secure in their persons against unreasonable searches and seizures, not unreasonable lashings. And people will swallow it.

  • This is why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whong09 (1307849) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:08PM (#27897691)
    Laws and amendments need to keep up with game changing technological development.
    • Re:This is why (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tackhead (54550) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:53PM (#27898101)

      Laws and amendments need to keep up with game changing technological development.

      Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.

      On Slashdot, you're asking for stronger privacy protections written into the laws, so that the level of privacy and liberty you enjoyed in your childhood remains relatively constant. Citizens using VOIP instead of an analog phone for voice communications? "Sorry, uppity government! We'd like a law that reminds you that you should need a warrant to tap that too."

      In Washington, those exact same words mean that the laws should enable the development of a surveillance network so pervasive that it would have given Orwell nightmares. Citizens using VOIP instead of analog phones for voice communications? "Sorry, uppity citizen! Not until we pass a law requiring a built-in backdoor."

      We asked for a government that listened to its citizens, and now we've got one. Let's not make that mistake twice by asking for surveillance laws that keep up with game-changing technological breakthroughs.

  • Perfect! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Majik Sheff (930627) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:09PM (#27897697) Journal

    That means I can attach GPS devices to police cars! Never again will I get a ticket while driving through the People's Republic of Wisconsin!

    • Re:Perfect! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Krneki (1192201) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:24PM (#27897835)
      You sir are a genius. Let's start to track down politician cars and update their locations real time to a web site.

      And then let's see how long it takes for them to change the law.
      • Re:Perfect! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Animaether (411575) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:49PM (#27898055) Journal

        You sir are a genius. Let's start to track down politician cars

        I'm note sure if you meant police (as per GP) or politician, but okay... so far so good, seems to be legal, all that. At least as long as you're a cop.
        I'm guessing there's laws against private citizens attaching random item X to other person's property Y.

        and update their locations real time to a web site.

        and there's definitely all sorts of laws against that one.

        It's a cute thought-experiment, bound to get you all sorts of populistic "YEA!"-voters, and might even be used to demonstrate the inequality between what some people (such as law enforcement officers, licenses private investigators, licensed bounty hunters, etc.) can do and others (joe schmoe) can't do, but fails to be realistic.

        That said - go for it, I'd love to see what happens, the media attention, all that.. I just hope it doesn't end badly for you.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Krneki (1192201)
          I know it's idealistic, still you don't have to take all the words so seriously.

          I was just pointing out how tracking citizens is ok, while it's not ok to track politicians. Why? Isn't a democracy what gives us the right to control our politicians?

          I don't judge the police, since they are just doing the job they are told to do.
    • Re:Perfect! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by darkmeridian (119044) <william.chuang@g ... com minus distro> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:37PM (#27897967) Homepage

      No, you can't. There are probably laws out there that prevent you from tampering with police cars. Police officers, in the course of an investigation, are allowed to do things that citizens cannot, such as pulling someone over or patting them down.

      The entire problem here is that the state hasn't passed any laws regulating the conduct. The court only ruled that there was no violation of the Fourth Amendment here, which restricts SEARCH and SEIZURE. It would be hard to argue that putting a GPS unit on a car is either a search (you don't see anything in the car, etc.) or a seizure (such as impounding the car). In fact, the decision starts off by inviting the legislature to address the issue. States are allowed to regulate even if there isn't a constitutional bar to an action.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      Never fear, technology has caught up for you [navigadget.com]! Of course, these types of devices tend to be illegal, so probably only police can have them.
  • True, but ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH (736903) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:11PM (#27897719)
    ... it was dark, this guy was attaching a device to the underside of my truck that looked like a bomb. So I shot him.
    • Re:True, but ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Firethorn (177587) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:28PM (#27897865) Homepage Journal

      Much more fun to call the bomb squad.

      1 Cop putting $1k GPS tracker on your vehicle, $50.

      6 man EOD team response, more like $10k. What are they going to do, NOT respond when you call about a potential bomb on your car?

      Then keep the tracker if you can(just remove the batteries).

      Otherwise, if you can get an excuse, visit a military base during an exercise where they do a search. Bring a book. It might take a while. I figure 50-50 they end up blowing it up. Also fun - they'll probably terminate the exercise.

  • Seems reasonable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whydna (9312) <`moc.liamtoh' `ta' `andyhw'> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:15PM (#27897747)

    If it's only vehicle location track, how is this different than having the police tail the vehicle or follow it via helicopter, etc. This seems like a lower-cost mechanism for doing the same thing. Is there more to it than that?

    • by langelgjm (860756) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:25PM (#27897839) Journal

      There's a saying that goes, "Quantity has a quality all its own."

      Tracking a vehicle by having a live officer tail it, or using a helicopter, takes significant resources and effort. Using a GPS device makes that job much, much easier. So yes, it saves resources and effort - but what if it makes it too effortless?

      Perhaps the logic of why the police don't need a warrant to tail your car is because they can't possibly tail everyone's car all the time, and tailing a car represents a significant investment of effort on their part - which they are unlikely to do without reason. On the other hand, if it's as easy as slapping on a GPS device, the police might be much more likely to track cars without only minimal reason.

    • by Qzukk (229616)

      Is there more to it than that?

      Sure: You don't have to screw with my property to tail me by car or helicopter.

      As an aside, I have to wonder if someone were to attach a GPS tracker to Paul Lundsten's car, would he blow a gasket [abovethelaw.com] about his unreasonable expectation of privacy being violated?

    • by hibiki_r (649814) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:31PM (#27897899)

      Probably the fact that, as private citizens, we'd be arrested if we were trying the same strategy on police cars. We are allowed to follow a policeman walking down the street, right?

      There's also the fact that the GPS device would be attached to our property, which seems to me like a pretty significant change. A cop could put your home under surveillance, but could they drill holes into your siding to attach the cameras?

      Oh well, that's what we get in a country that has no clear provisions for a right to privacy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DeadCatX2 (950953)

      A federal judge told the cops that they need a warrant to track your location via cell phone. I fail to see how this is any different than tracking your location by GPS. Unless the police have more power than the feds...?

      http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/celltracking/lenihanorder.pdf [eff.org]

  • Bill of Rights (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cjsm (804001) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:16PM (#27897759)
    This is why we have the Bill of Rights. Because governments will trample on personal freedom at their whim unless controlled by the law or the people.
  • New law? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DownWithMedia1.0 (1547249) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:17PM (#27897767)
    This sounds like a crazy decision, but the WI judge isnt making any new law here (not that the law is correct.) In fact, police have always been able to do this, because citizens have "no reasonable expectation of privacy" when they are in public. 4th amendment law rarely protects anyone when they are outside in public, with the rare exceptions of when their bags or persons are protected from search and/or seizure (that is, if a search or seizure has occurred.) If you are interested more in this crackpot area of the law, see US v. Katz and its wide ranging progeny, especially US v. Knotts (electronic tracking devices, no reasonable expectation of privacy in your location).
    • Re:New law? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by blackest_k (761565) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:29PM (#27897873) Homepage Journal

      The one interesting point in the article was the statement that the guys driveway was public and therefore the police were at liberty to attach the device to his car there.

      Why is his driveway public? I would have thought he would have owned the land up to the boundary stated on his property deeds and that would include his driveway, perhaps his driveway needs to be signed private no public access.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Blue Stone (582566)

        The drive is not public, clearly, however, people have an implied right to walk accross your land to deliver something or knock on your door - so the police were just acting like a postman - delivering something to you by walking on to your property.

        That would be my guess. IANAL.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Now I really want to know: if you're not suspected of a crime, aren't behaving suspiciously, and aren't meaningfully related to some ongoing investigation, is it still okay for someone in law enforcement to just follow you around? If true, that's pretty disturbing.

  • by SEE (7681) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:22PM (#27897817) Homepage

    On the one hand, you've got the theory that this is analogous to assigning an officer to watch and tail a suspect's car, which is perfectly legal without a warrant.

    On the other hand, you have, for example, things like Kyllo v. United States, where using thermal imaging equipment was treated as a search even though ordinary visual observation from off the property is not.

    I suspect a higher court would rule that GPS devices are more common in civilian use than thermal imaging, and that when driving your car in public you have no reasonable expectation that your movement will be unobserved, and so rule that this court got it right, there is no Fourth Amendment violation.

    • by DarkOx (621550) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:32PM (#27897917) Journal

      I don't think it makes any sense. The police can't just install a camera on my lawn to watch the house. They should not be able install something on my car either. Its not the same as a tail operation at all. All I can say is that the police have no reasonable expectation of getting their GPS back since they are obviously disposing of it by leaving in on my property.

      • by SEE (7681) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:40PM (#27897989) Homepage

        Yeah, but the reason they can't put a camera on your lawn isn't the Fourth Amendment. They can put the camera on public property, or on a neighbor's property with their permission, to observe your property. While putting the GPS on your car might be illegal for other reasons, it isn't obvious that it's a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

        • Correct (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:17PM (#27898321)

          This isn't a cut and dried situation. Police need a warrant to search your house. There is no question in this matter. The Constitution is pretty clear on the matter, and there's loads of case law. However they don't need a warrant to conduct surveillance on your house. They are free to park on the street and watch what goes on. For that matter, so are private citizens. I can park near you house and watch you if I like.

          So that's where the argument that it is fine comes from. This isn't a search, they aren't looking through your car, this is surveillance, they are just watching where you car goes. They could legally do this by simply following your car, so one could argue this is just an extension of that.

          Now please don't think I'm advocating this, just saying that it isn't a clear situation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rwyoder (759998)

      I suspect a higher court would rule that GPS devices are more common in civilian use than thermal imaging, and that when driving your car in public you have no reasonable expectation that your movement will be unobserved, and so rule that this court got it right, there is no Fourth Amendment violation.

      First, GPS *receivers* are common in civilian use. This is not just a receiver, but a *transmitter* that sends out the GPS coordinates of it's onboard receiver. How common are those?

      Second, cars can drive

  • Cool (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:23PM (#27897821) Journal
    if Police can do it without it being a suspect OR having a warrant, then we, the citizens, should have that same right. That means that we can now track judges to find their homes, what schools their kids go to, where member of the opposing political parties are heading off to (what do you mean that is a no-tel hotel; and hookers were there, along with representatives from Exon??? Really). Want to know where the chief of police or head of your school lives? Real easy now that nobody has privacy.
  • So, is there a way to detect GPS antennas (maybe with some kind of frequency resonator ?) so you can remote it and stick it on the first 18-wheeler you find ?
  • by alljake (1471215) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:26PM (#27897845)
    As a lawyer in Wisconsin, I can tell you that this decision is pretty meaningless. I have had several cases go to the court of appeals (this court) and you almost always lose there on novel issues like this one. Til the WI supreme court rules takes this and rules or denies further appeal, this is not news. For some reason our CoA's don't like making big splashes, they will almost always just side with the state.
  • It's the cost of acquisition of information. With things like onstar, this cost can drop to zero, and can be utilized for simple information gathering, fishing expeditions, and post facto inquisition.

    This will be utilized for intimidation, politics, blackmail, and even criminal prosecution just to keep the populous satisfied. But information is power, and information can be twisted, presented in strange ways, and even lied about and manufactured.

    Yellow Cake anyone?

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:26PM (#27897853)
    that privacy must be considered as well as just rights against search and seizure. My state has ruled exactly the opposite: that a warrant is necessary in order to track someone with GPS.

    The WI decision contradicts decisions in a number of other states. I doubt it will stand.
  • Wait, so... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rpillala (583965) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:27PM (#27897859)

    Does this mean I can do it? Stalking jokes aside, what's the difference between me attaching a GPS to someone's car and me following them around? Surely it's legal for me to tail a car. This just makes it simpler for me to track the whereabouts of multiple cars at once.

  • by earlymon (1116185) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:29PM (#27897877) Homepage Journal

    From August 14, 2008 - http://www.insidetech.com/news/articles/2833-police-planting-gps-trackers-on-cars-without-warrants [insidetech.com]

    Privacy advocates are shocked. They say that by monitoring the movements of people, many of which are likely innocent, police departments across the country are committing a Big Brother-esque invasion of privacy. And one state Supreme Court is on their side. The Washington State Supreme Court ruled that a warrant must be obtained to justify such invasions of privacy.

    However, other state supreme courts - including New York, Wisconsin and Maryland, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago - have declared that warrants are not needed.

    First - way to go, State of Washington.

    Next, it's not cut and dried, legally. From TFA:

    Sveum, 41, argued the tracking violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. He argued the device followed him into areas out of public view, such as his garage.

    The court disagreed. The tracking did not violate constitutional protections because the device only gave police information that could have been obtained through visual surveillance, Lundsten wrote.

    Even though the device followed Sveum's car to private places, an officer tracking Sveum could have seen when his car entered or exited a garage, Lundsten reasoned. Attaching the device was not a violation, he wrote, because Sveum's driveway is a public place.

    "We discern no privacy interest protected by the Fourth Amendment that is invaded when police attach a device to the outside of a vehicle, as long as the information obtained is the same as could be gained by the use of other techniques that do not require a warrant," he wrote.

    Although police obtained a warrant in this case, it wasn't needed, he added.

    Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said using GPS to track someone's car goes beyond observing them in public and should require a warrant.

    "The idea that you can go and attach anything you want to somebody else's property without any court supervision, that's wrong," he said. "Without a warrant, they can do this on anybody they want."

    So, what the real issue? Surveillance? Like it or not, that's legal. A cop can follow you all day long, so far as I know, as long as it doesn't amount to what a judge would call harassment. (That said, a judge's threshold and mine are probably quite different.)

    Or is the real issue as the ACLU says, the attachment of a (police) device to property without court supervision?

    I'm going with the ACLU on this one. Bond used a homer(*) 45 years ago in Goldfinger, and that was cool - or so we thought, because the of the target. But when I think now that the pursuer had a license to kill - I wonder if the future shouldn't be protected very, very carefully.

    (* - Yep, they called it a homer in the movie. Nonetheless, cue Simpsons' jokes in ...3...2...)

  • by schwit1 (797399) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:02PM (#27898181)
    What's the next step? All vehicles will be required to have a government controlled GPS device.
  • by Foo2rama (755806) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:14PM (#27898289) Homepage Journal
    I am not a lawyer... but,

    Modern tort law states.
    Intrusion upon seclusion occurs when a perpetrator intentionally intrudes, physically, electronically, or otherwise, upon the private space, solitude, or seclusion of a person, or the private affairs or concerns of a person, by use of the perpetrator's physical senses or by electronic device or devices to oversee or overhear the person's private affairs, or by some other form of investigation, examination, or observation intrude upon a person's private matters if the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.

    Unless this does not apply to LEO...

    In theory you could expand this ruling to include monitoring of a persons latptop as long as they where not at home, to view connections made but not the actual communication, perhaps extending to his communication. Or even extended to snooping any wireless communication that can be received in a public place, even using basic encryption that is known to be compromised ie wep etc. (read below)

    The argument which is kinda valid, is that the information of placing a tracking device can be obtained by following the person, hence the argument that it tracked him into a non private place IE his garage, while in theory a violation of privacy is still info that could be obtained visually from public view.

    To me this appears to be spirit vs letter of the law issue. The letter of the law does make this type of tracking legal, but is that really the Spirit of the Law... I can see lots of loopholes extending from this ruling.
  • by Telephone Sanitizer (989116) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:23PM (#27898385)

    Since the police are using his own property (the vehicle) for a public purpose (the tracking/investigation), they need at least probable cause and more likely a warrant to satisfy both procedural and substantive due process. If you read the article, you should take notice that this was essentially the argument that the ACLU spokesperson made without explicitly mentioning the 5th Amendment.

    There's also an "unreasonable interference" due process argument.

    Unfortunately, failing to raise the appropriate argument in the lower court may be construed as a waiver unless the defendant can demonstrate incompetent council.

    'Poor (evil stalker) guy is probably screwed.

  • I can't wait... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anachragnome (1008495) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:48PM (#27898547)

    I can't wait until someone decides to challenge all this crap and puts some of these devices on patrol cars, or even the car of Madison Judge Paul Lundsten, and lets the cops decide how to respond (no, I'm not going to do it. The cops in my neck of the woods are pretty decent folk).

    If a warrant is not needed, what is to stop ANYONE from doing this, and doing so LEGALLY?

    What law might I be charged with if I were to put one on a patrol car? Why wouldn't that law apply to a cop doing the same thing?

    Just because you have the word "Judge" before your name doesn't mean your not an idiot. This entire decision on the judges part completely muddies the water in terms of existing laws that were designed to prevent STALKERS from doing this.

    A warrant is a surety that the tracking is being done for legitimate purposes. As it stands, what the cops are doing is NO different then what a stalker might do because there is no assurance of legitimacy.

  • Civilian use? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Culture20 (968837) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @03:59PM (#27899055)
    Where does the law stand on civilian use? If there's no warrant needed, a cop can use this method for personal reasons? Track the wife, kids, friend suspected of sleeping with the wife, other cops? There needs to be oversight and/or rules for potentially abusive tools/methods.
  • by Eskarel (565631) on Monday May 11, 2009 @03:49AM (#27903369)

    If you read the judges decision, he hasn't actually decided anything. He looks at four allegations.

    1. That attaching the device requires a warrant.
    2. That tracking the guy on public roads requires a warrant.
    3. That tracking the guy when he's not on public roads requires a warrant.
    4. That any part of the tracking data being illegal means that the rest of it should be suppressed.

    The judge essentially shows that attaching a tracking device in a public place to determine things that can be determined by visual observation has already been decided to not require a warrant, that police have the right to observe someone on a public road without a warrant(including by satellite), and that while information gathered while the defendant is not on public roads is illegal and must be suppressed there have already been decisions determining that just because some evidence is obtained illegally and must be suppressed does not mean that other evidence obtained legally has to be suppressed.

    Everything this guy has decided is based on previous decisions, and from the referenced portions of the decisions it seems that he applied those decisions validly.

    You could certainly argue that the existing decisions aren't valid, but since they're supreme court decisions this guy doesn't have the authority to overturn them.

    There's also the plus that he's basically already decided that any evidence gathered about your location when you're not on or able to be seen from public roads is illegal and must be suppressed. It's good law for what he was given.

  • Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rgviza (1303161) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:10AM (#27905259)

    How long til surreptitious police monitoring GPS use becomes widespread and they start firing off automated speeding tickets?

    How about cameras outside every residence, peering in? The cameras are on public property right? They don't require trespassing or B&E to install them right? How is this any different?

    Anyone that is ok with the police doing this is a moron.

    -Viz

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