Thursday, February 9, 2012

Privacy Issues and GPS

When the Constitutional Commission in 1986 drafted Section 2 of our Bill of Rights, I can only imagine that they probably never thought of the possibility of having it applied to a cellular-based GPS tracking device that can be attached to a car.

Roughly two weeks ago, the US Supreme Court in the case of United States vs. Jones reversed the defendant’s conviction for drug trafficking on the ground that the evidence offered against him which was obtained through a tracking device attached to his car was inadmissible for being violative of the Fourth Amendment on unreasonable searches and seizures. The US Supreme Court viewed the government’s actions as an intrusion, or as a trespass into private property amounting to an unreasonable search, and on that basis, excluded pertinent evidence which evidently led to his acquittal. I thought this was pretty interesting because many of our everyday devices nowadays can easily be turned into tracking devices without much exertion. Even in the Philippines, service providers can turn any cellular phone into a tracking device, and most computers can easily be made to have that same feature. Although I would tend to agree on the court’s position that this sort of technology can easily be used to intrude on a person’s privacy, I have some reservations in classifying the same act as a search within the purview of the Fourth Amendment. For instance, I think that the pieces of evidence (i.e. locations and destinations) that were obtained in this case were all taken while the vehicle was in a public place. To my mind, this doesn’t seem much different from a passerby who just happens to see the vehicle in some public street. Then again, however, I suppose the trouble lies in the manner by which the information is obtained. After all, it isn’t hard to feel violated knowing a device is tracking your every move. People know its wrong, but cant exactly point to anything which concretely makes it so. I just think its curious how rapid advancements in technology has made it more difficult to classify prohibited forms of behavior and how the gray areas have now become much larger. The law has definitely a lot of catching up to do.

Joni R. Gomez, Entry # 8

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