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Supreme Court Rules Government Violated Privacy Rights in GPS Tracking Case

A GPS-related graphic.
A GPS-related graphic.
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January 23, 2012

In a major victory for privacy, today in U.S. v. Jones the Supreme Court unanimously held that, “The Government’s attachment of the GPS device to the vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment.” The Court found that the government violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects American from unreasonable searches, when it placed a GPS device to Antoine Jones’s car and tracked his movements continuously for a month.

This case is particularly significant because it is the first time the Supreme Court has had to consider the constitutionality of location-tracking technology. While this case is specifically about whether police need a warrant to put a GPS tracking device on a person’s car, it is the closest the Court is likely to come anytime soon to addressing location tracking, and the decision could influence the law on cell phone tracking.

The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Court to find that the wealth of personal details gleaned from the 24/7 surveillance of GPS tracking rises to the level of private information that is covered by the Fourth Amendment. We’re very pleased to hear the Court recognized that 24-7 GPS tracking is so intrusive and should be prohibited under the Bill of Rights except when authorized by a court based on probable cause to believe that criminal activity is afoot.

To help ensure that the Supreme Court’s decision is enforced, contact Congress today and ask them to support pending bill that would protect Americans’ cell phone location data from being obtained by law enforcement without a warrant.

Stay tuned for more analysis of this important decision this week!

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