Private GPS Use Rising; Is It “Electronic Stalking”?


Tens of thousands of Americans are using Global Positioning System devices to track vehicles, which the Supreme Court said last week is a Fourth Amendment search issue for law enforcement, the New York Times reports. The easy tool for recording a person's every move is a powerful one that, when misused, amounts to “electronic stalking,” private investigator John Nazarian of Los Angeles tells the newspaper. “That, to the victim, is just as terrifying as seeing your face in the window at night before they go to bed,” he said.

GPS trackers are increasingly being cited in cases of criminal stalking and civil violations of privacy. One use — by as many as 30,000 parents, one seller estimates — is to monitor the driving habits of teenagers; some devices send a text message when the car goes over a certain speed. California and Texas, unlike most states, ban many uses of GPS trackers without consent, with exceptions for law enforcement and car owners. Many private investigators follow the same rules to minimize the risks of civil litigation — that a tracked person could sue for violation of privacy.

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