In his latest blog entry on the Huffington Post, Prof. Bennett Gershman writes about what he calls “one of the most important privacy cases in decades,” United States v. Jones, which is being argued before the Supreme Court today. In this case, the Court will decide whether the secret installation by police of a GPS device to the defendant’s vehicle and monitoring his movements every day for four weeks is a “search” under the Fourth Amendment that requires a warrant.
According to Gershman, “The case has enormous implications,” for law enforcement’s ability to employ powerful and highly intrusive surveillance technology to investigate crimes without being subjected to constitutional constraints.
It’s anybody’s guess what the Justices will do. The Justices could affirm the lower court and find that use of GPS constitutes a sufficient threat to privacy to require that law enforcement obtain from a judge a warrant before using it. However, the Justices could also find that GPS merely “enhances” what the police could already see with the naked eye and therefore GPS surveillance is not covered by the Fourth Amendment. To reach this conclusion, however, the Justices would have to concede that for the police to accomplish with the “naked eye” what GPS surveillance accomplishes would require the assignment of hundreds, perhaps thousands of additional police, and the installation of cameras on every street lamp. However, according to several lower courts, GPS is not an enhancement; it “replaces” the human senses, and facilitates a new perception of the world in which any object may be followed and exhaustively recorded for an unlimited period of time.
Read the full article here.