Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Did you know that police in Los Angeles are equipped with air guns that can literally shoot GPS-enabled darts at passing vehicles and thus allow law enforcers to track their locations?

The trend of using GPS by the police is, according to reports, rapidly growing.

In a case lodged before the U.S. Supreme Court, the issue is whether law enforcers need to first secure a warrant before using GPS device to track a suspect's destinations and whereabouts.

This case traces its roots when a GPS device was secretly affixed by the police, without warrant, to the vehicle of a suspected drug trafficker, thus allowing the public officers to track his position for weeks. The same yielded valuable and incriminating information. The Court of Appeals ordered therein that all GPS evidence presented at the trial be thrown out and reversed the conviction handed down by the trial court.

For the prosecution, the government argued that a GPS device is no different from a beeper, which authorities used to track a suspect more than two decades ago. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that people on public roads have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

In a similar case, a three-judge panel in California upheld the warrantless use of a GPS device, saying it was no different from tailing a suspect. Dissent held that the court gave "the government the power to track the movements of every one of us, every day of our lives."

Indeed, as the dissent would have it, the court handed the government the authority to violate fundamental rights to privacy and to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizure. Furthermore, it must be kept in mind that illegally-obtained evidence cannot be used against the accused. The constitutional guarantees enshrined in the Bill of Rights are limitations against the State.

What if, however, the unauthorized tracking of locations is done by private persons? What can be used as basis to penalize them?

The questions are relevant because there is now a growing concern regarding the same.

In fact, a lawsuit against Apple had been filed earlier this year for alleged privacy invasion for surreptitiously recording and storing location and movement of its users. The suit claimed that users " way to prevent Apple from collecting this information because even if users disable Iphone and Ipad GPS components, Apple's tracking system remains fully functional."


Entry # 4 by: Diana Margaret C. Lauron

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