Remember all that talk about how making a ton of your personal information available, including real-time location, is not only kind of silly but also potentially catastrophic in a creepily Orwellian way? Well get ready to read some journalists leaning pretty, pretty, pretty hard on that cliche in the near future. Apparently the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided that it’s completely cool for cops to roll up to your house and plant a motherfucking GPS tracker on your car to log your movement.
You can listen to the hearing here, but the reasoning is that an un-gated driveway does not imply an “expectation of privacy,” and that – get this – there is “no reasonable expectation that the government isn’t tracking your movement.” Therefore, planting the tracker does not constitute a search and no warrant is necessary.
This case began in 2007, when Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents decided to monitor Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon resident who they suspected was growing marijuana. They snuck onto his property in the middle of the night and found his Jeep in his driveway, a few feet from his trailer home. Then they attached a GPS tracking device to the vehicle’s underside.
After Pineda-Moreno challenged the DEA’s actions, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in January that it was all perfectly legal. More disturbingly, a larger group of judges on the circuit, who were subsequently asked to reconsider the ruling, decided this month to let it stand.
I have to wonder if some of the judges weren’t bringing a bias to the table here based on the fact that the guy was actually breaking the law, but the ends still don’t justify the means. Counsel for the gub’ment says that there was reasonable suspicion to plant a tracker on this guy, but she has the very liberating benefit of making such a claim under the warm glow of vindication that is Pineda-Moreno’s guilty-plea. She points out that it’s not as though they were just planting GPS trackers on every car in the neighborhood. Unfortunately nobody raised their hand to ask, “uhh, but what would stop them from doing so if they wanted?”
Gizmodo writer Matt Buchanan points out that the “slippery slope” argument is all-too-often invoked to make an otherwise absurd philosophical leap, like the one some jerkass tried to argue that once you allow gay marriage people will start lining up to marry horses), but here it is very reasonable. In fact, the only unreasonable thing is that we’ve been so enamored with the wonders of our glossy, new-fangled, wireless mobile iGoogle-machines that we’ve already slipped and slided (slid?) our way right to legal government surveillance.
Of course, should you have reason to believe someone’s tracking you there’s something you can do about it. The Jammer Store‘s got you covered if you’re in the market for a GPS jammer. There’s just one problem: They’re illegal.
Filed under: Deep Thoughts, FML, Science & Tech, WTF | Tagged: court of appeals, dea, Drug Enforcement Administration, Global Positioning System, government surveillance, GPS, gps tracker, Law, ninth circuit, security nor liberty, so not cool, there is no privacy, Tracking system, United States, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit |