The U.S. Supreme Court gave a unanimous ruling today in the case of Antoine Jones, who received a conviction of life in prison after evidence from a GPS tracking device in his car connected him to a house full of money and drugs. That conviction was overturned by a lower cour, and the Supreme Court agreed. The court ruled that GPS devices constitute a search, and as such require a search warrant before being used in an investigation. For those of us concerned about being digitally tailed by the cops, this is a pretty big win.
The particulars of the Jones case aside — as in, if he is guilty — the ruling would seem to be a sign that the federal law is starting to keep pace with the available technology. In the ruling, all nine justices agreed that using GPS devices breaches the protections of the Fourth Amendment. If the precedent stands, it would mean that GPS tracking without a warrant amounts to an unnecessary search or seizure.
Readers will recall a similar story from a little over a year ago about a Redditor named Khaled, who found a GPS tracking device on his friend’s car. In that case, the discovery of the device led agents to attempt to retrieve it. The decision today from the Supreme Court doesn’t prevent this kind of observation, but it would at least require investigators to provide evidence that such observation is necessary.
Hopefully making people jump through hoops will keep these investigations honest, giving law enforcement the tools to solve crimes and the general public a layer of protection from abuse. You can read the entire decision here. Of particular interest is Justice Alito’s concurring opinion, where he agrees with the court but suggests that additional legislation will be necessary to keep pace with technological advancement.
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