Today the Supreme Court hears arguments in the GPS tracking case, which NPR says “could have enormous implications for privacy rights in the information age.” Police want to use new technology to get the goods on the bad guys, and citizens think that when they leave their homes, they still have some zone of personal privacy in their cars. “It’s critical to understand that this case is not about whether law enforcement can use GPS devices. It’s about whether they should get a warrant,” says Walter Dellinger, who represents defendant Antoine Jones.
“If the Supreme Court gave a green light” to warrantless GPS tracking, he says then “any officer can install any GPS device for any reason on anybody’s car, even if the officer thinks it would be interesting to know where Supreme Court justices go at night when they leave the courthouse. No one would be immune from having a GPS device installed on their vehicles.” The government contends that the Fourth Amendment bans warrantless searches only of private spaces, like homes, the interior of a car, or a locked office desk. The government asserts that the GPS device is just an electronic extension of old-fashioned human surveillance. Pat Rowan, a former federal prosecutor, says, “There’s no Fourth Amendment implication for what a person is doing out in the public space, whether they’re walking down the street and being observed or whether they’re driving down the street and being observed.”