Congress Must Act to Stop Unwarranted Tracking by Law Enforcement

In an effort to rein in overreaching law enforcement practices, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) yesterday re-introduced the GPS Act, which would require a warrant for location tracking and create a critical check on the growing use of these invasive searches.

While location tracking has become an increasingly common tool for law enforcement, proper regulation of this powerful technology has never been established. Police often track individuals' movements for days, weeks, and even months, often without a judge determining whether the surveillance is justified based upon a legitimate suspicion of criminal activity.

The ACLU does not oppose law enforcement embracing new technologies; however, safeguards must be put in place to protect our longstanding privacy rights from persistent, invasive surveillance. On January 23, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in US v. Jones that that location tracking by law enforcement implicates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, and called on Congress to act to regulate GPS technology tracking. Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained how sensitive the data gathered from location tracking searches can be:

GPS monitoring generates a precise, comprehensive record of a person's public movements that reflects a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations. … Awareness that the Government may be watching chills associational and expressive freedoms. And the Government's unrestrained power to assemble data that reveal private aspects of identity is susceptible to abuse.

As the ACLU's Catherine Crump testified before Congress last year, without limits on what the government can collect or how long it can keep what it collects, the government can store these records and data-mine the information for years into the future. Judicial oversight for location tracking, through a warrant requirement, would prevent law enforcement from conducting suspicionless surveillance solely at its discretion and would thereby protect the rights of all Americans.

Before the explosion of tracking technology in recent years, law enforcement needed to invest extensive time and resources to gather such detailed information, which created a natural deterrent against the practice. Today, given the ubiquity of cell phone towers and the increasing precision of cell site info, an officer can often just contact your cell phone provider to get specifics on where you have been or even attach a tracking device to your car – both without a warrant.

Law enforcement's location tracking policies should be clear, uniform and protective of privacy nationwide. Instead, they diverge widely, with agencies in different towns following different rules. In response to a recent ACLU FOIA request, the Department of Justice refused to disclose its policies on tracking citizens. Congress should step in and set a clear and protective standard across the board.

The danger unregulated location tracking poses to Americans' privacy is real, immediate and universal. We applaud Sen. Wyden and Rep. Chaffetz for introducing legislation to restore proper checks and balances to protect innocent Americans from unwarranted and invasive location tracking. The GPS Act, combined with the introduction of the ECPA Amendments Act this week, demonstrates that a bipartisan coalition is solidifying around guaranteeing our digital due process rights in 21st century America.

Learn more about the GPS Act and other civil liberty issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

View comments (3)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

Knowing with absolution an object of your attention is based on error; perceptible apprehended by the senses by the way of olfactory systems. The olfactory systems certainly mediate the capacity to detect and encode a wide range of complex and novel odors in the environment. The natural fundamental processes for adjustment to environmental conditions [transduction] probable course of socially expected behavior patterns usually determined by an individual's status in a particular society; perceived changes in the sensitivity to smell. Currently, no chemical or physiological data indicate a correspondence between an odorant to an odor and perception of a specific odor in mammals
The individualization of rights and the application of the principals of justice to the individual person as the bearer of rights requires rule by right reason over and against any rule based on no more than revelation or custom or tradition.

Anonymous

What horse shit where,, do,u folk live pluto way out there

Anonymous

The individual few who become subjects of tracking are having their rights abused simply because they live in certain parts of this country , small municipalities tightly knit where todays text, twitter , etc can be use to skirt any official conversation with official police dispatchers and can be maintained to harass and collect information.
The word saturation could be used here in a skewed way to justify their actions.
Officials as well as the friends of these officials can use todays tech gadgets to accomplish surveillance on whom ever they choose for what ever reason they deem appropriate .
Certain newly built subdivisions have been using this type of means to keep their eyes on neighbors in order to thin out the undesirables , from their term of view, so they may achieve their own Utopia, safety or just plain prejudice .
But it is noticeable that in lover income areas they do not bother to track anyone only because they mostly do not live in these areas, it would be a waste of time for incarceration, no money to make bail whereas other areas can reap rewards.
Innocent until proven guilty seems be to disappearing into the backdraft of dust from people backs as they walk along their neighborhood looking for the undesirable or others, and their perception of someone different , less intelligent , or people not like themselves.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Thomas Jefferson

Stay Informed