Monday, February 14, 2011

Privacy Rights and GPS Tracking. Yale Discovers What Stockycat Has Been Saying For Some Time

Fellows from the Information Society Project at Yale Law School have posted an interesting article on technology and privacy interests, with an emphasis on GPS tracking.  The article can be found here.  The key part of the abstract reads:
In this paper, we argue first, that where a technology enables invasion of interests at the heart of the Fourth Amendment’s concern -- protection of citizens from arbitrary government intrusions into their private lives -- the Court’s precedents require warrants to prevent abuse, and second, that the type and scope of information collected by prolonged automated GPS surveillance enables governments to monitor a person’s political associations, their medical conditions and their amorous interests, in a way that invades their privacy and chills expression of other fundamental rights.
In the article, the authors argue that court opinions permitting the warrantless use of GPS devices fail “to recognize the intrusiveness of prolonged surveillance by invisible, automated devices that continuously gather and analyze detailed information about a person’s movements for an unlimited period of time.”
Readers of this blog know that I have been making this same point for a few months now.  On October 6, 2010 I wrote, “long-term surveillance of a targeted individual unrelated to any particular criminal action violates a reasonable expectation of privacy.”  And in an upcoming law review article I write: 
the use of GPS tracking devices for long-term surveillance is not merely an enhancement of the type of surveillance traditionally conducted by police, as no police agency could deploy the skill and resources to, undetected, record the type or amount of information provided by a GPS tracking device. And, . . . no reasonable person would expect to be the target of such a massive police surveillance operation. Accordingly, because the use of these devices infringes on a legitimate expectation of privacy, the use of these devices constitutes a search which, absent the present of another exception, requires a warrant.
Elsewhere, I have expressed the idea that technology permits an unwarranted intrusion into the personal lives of citizens – and that the aggregation of tracking data can reveal medical, religious, and political information that otherwise would be considered private.  I am glad to see that the folks at Yale have picked up on my ideas.

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