Supreme Court Considers GPS Cases and the Future of Privacy

Discussion in 'Global Navigation Satellite Systems' started by Sam Wormley, Nov 9, 2011.

  1. Sam Wormley

    Sam Wormley Guest

    Supreme Court Considers GPS Cases and the Future of Privacy

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com...onsiders-gps-cases-and-the-future-of-privacy/

    > This case is important because some of the most profound questions relating to privacy in the 21st century turn directly on the handling of the information associated with mobile devices. It is an issue that is complicated because technology and cultural expectations regarding privacy are changing so quickly. The legal landscape related to privacy and mobile devices is complex, contradictory, and evolving.
    >


    See:
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com...onsiders-gps-cases-and-the-future-of-privacy/
     
    Sam Wormley, Nov 9, 2011
    #1
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  2. Sam Wormley

    Ed M. Guest

    http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/10-1259.pdf

    JUSTICE ALITO: Well, that seems to get -to me to get to what's really
    involved here, the issue of whether there is a technical trespass or
    not is potentially a ground for deciding this particular case, but it
    seems to me the heart of the problem that's presented by this case and
    will be presented by other cases involving new technology is that in
    the pre-computer, pre-Internet age much of the privacy -- I would say
    most of the privacy -- that people enjoyed was
    not the result of legal protections or constitutional protections; it
    was the result simply of the difficulty of traveling around and
    gathering up information.

    But with computers, it's now so simple to amass an enormous amount of
    information about people that consists of things that could have been
    observed on the streets, information that was made available to the
    public. If -- if this case is decided on the ground that there was a
    technical trespass, I don't have much doubt that in the near future it
    will be probable -- I think it's possible now in many instances -- for
    law enforcement to monitor people's movements on -- on public streets
    without committing a technical trespass.

    So how do we deal with this? Do we just say, well, nothing is changed,
    so that all the information that people expose to the public -- is, is
    fair game? There is no -- there is no search or seizure when that is
    -- when that is obtained, because there isn't a reasonable expectation
    of privacy? But isn't there a real change in -- in this regard?

    .. . .

    JUSTICE BREYER: But what -- but what is the question that I think
    people are driving at, at least as I understand it and certainly share
    the concern, is that if you win this case then there is nothing to
    prevent the police or the government ffrom monitoring 24 hours a day
    the public movement of every citizen of the United States. And -- and
    the difference between the monitoring and what happened in the past is
    memories are fallible, computers aren't.
    And no one, at least very rarely, sends human beings to follow people
    24 hours a day. That occasionally happens. But with the machines, you
    can. So if you win, you suddenly produce what sounds like 1984 from
    their brief.

    .. . .

    JUSTICE BREYER: . . . Start with the other end. Start, what would a
    democratic society look like if a large number of people did think
    that the government was tracking their every movement over long
    periods of time. And once you reject that, you have to have a reason
    under the Fourth Amendment and a principle. And what I'm looking for
    is the reason and the principle that would reject that, but wouldn't
    also reject 24 hours a day for 28 days. Do you see where I'm -- that's
    what I'm listening very hard to find.

    .. . .

    JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: The GPS technology today is limited only by the
    cost of the instrument, which frankly right now is so small that it
    wouldn't take that much of a budget, local budget, to place a GPS on
    every car in the nation.

    .. . .

    JUSTICE ALITO: You know, I don't know what society expects and I think
    it's changing. Technology is changing people's expectations of
    privacy. Suppose we look forward 10 years, and maybe 10 years from
    now 90 percent of the population will be using social networking sites
    and they will have on average 500 friends and they will have allowed
    their friends to monitor their location 24 hours a day, 365 days a
    year, through the use of their cell phones. Then -- what would the
    expectation of privacy be then?

    .. . .

    JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Do you have any idea of how many GPS devices are
    being used by Federal Government agencies and State law enforcement
    officials?

    MR. DREEBEN: The Federal Government, I can speak to, and it's in the
    low thousands annually. It's not a massive universal use of an
    investigative technique. The FBI requires that there be some
    reasonable basis for using GPS before it installs it. And as a result,
    this is a technique that basically supplements visual surveillance
    rather than supplanting it all together.
     
    Ed M., Nov 9, 2011
    #2
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  3. In article <>,
    Ed M. <> wrote:
    >
    > http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/10-1259.pdf
    >
    > JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: The GPS technology today is limited only by the
    > cost of the instrument, which frankly right now is so small that it
    > wouldn't take that much of a budget, local budget, to place a GPS on
    > every car in the nation.


    What so many people get confused about is what a GPS unit does.

    It is a unit that can know where it is and what the time is, and could
    store that data in its own memory. It does NOT automatically send that
    information anywhere, and certainly not back via the satellites!

    The collection and collation of all that data from every GPS unit is
    a MUCH bigger task than just putting a little cheap unit on everything.

    Does anyone ever point this out to non-techies?

    Cheers
    Tony
    --
    Tony Mountifield
    Work: - http://www.softins.co.uk
    Play: - http://tony.mountifield.org
     
    Tony Mountifield, Nov 10, 2011
    #3
  4. Sam Wormley

    macpacheco Guest

    On Nov 10, 7:59 am, (Tony Mountifield) wrote:
    > In article <..com>,
    >
    > Ed M. <> wrote:
    >
    > >http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/10-12...

    >
    > > JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: The GPS technology today is limited only by the
    > > cost of the instrument, which frankly right now is so small that it
    > > wouldn't take that much of a budget, local budget, to place a GPS on
    > > every car in the nation.

    >
    > What so many people get confused about is what a GPS unit does.
    >
    > It is a unit that can know where it is and what the time is, and could
    > store that data in its own memory. It does NOT automatically send that
    > information anywhere, and certainly not back via the satellites!
    >
    > The collection and collation of all that data from every GPS unit is
    > a MUCH bigger task than just putting a little cheap unit on everything.
    >
    > Does anyone ever point this out to non-techies?
    >
    > Cheers
    > Tony
    > --
    > Tony Mountifield
    > Work: -http://www.softins.co.uk
    > Play: -http://tony.mountifield.org


    1 - is it acceptable for law enforcement to attach a monitoring device
    to your property without a warrant. For instance in the future if
    there are cameras capable of reading license plates all over the place
    and software capable of doing that OCR automatically, that can't be
    considered illegal.

    2 - The other question is really about not creating a perception that
    someone might be a criminal because he's under surveillance. That's
    the biggest problem if item 1 is considered acceptable by the US
    supreme court.

    Serious people that have no concerns with having committed any crimes
    might say its a good thing police can investigate people more
    efficiently. There should be at least an internal audit of usage of
    such devices, done at say 20% sampling, to avoid overzealous cops
    annoying people too much.

    Of course, I'd say first and foremost, high profile politicians should
    be the most frequently target, just to try to keep them honest.

    That would be specially good in high political corruption places like
    Brazil or Italy, where we desperately need to weed out the majority of
    the politicians ASAP !
     
    macpacheco, Nov 10, 2011
    #4
  5. Sam Wormley

    Alan Browne Guest

    On 2011-11-10 06:26 , Mike Coon wrote:
    > macpacheco wrote:
    >> 1 - is it acceptable for law enforcement to attach a monitoring device
    >> to your property without a warrant. For instance in the future if
    >> there are cameras capable of reading license plates all over the place
    >> and software capable of doing that OCR automatically, that can't be
    >> considered illegal.
    >>
    >> 2 - The other question is really about not creating a perception that
    >> someone might be a criminal because he's under surveillance. That's
    >> the biggest problem if item 1 is considered acceptable by the US
    >> supreme court.

    >
    > I don't see the connection between "connecting a monitoring device to your
    > property" and having monitoring cameras. In the UK the latter, complete with
    > OCR, is very common, especially in most police patrol cars. There is also a


    There is a huge difference between spot sampling of cars for automobile
    violations and tracking your every move 24/7 over days/weeks/months.

    IMO, and I hope the USSC comes to the same conclusion, it constitutes
    unreasonable search and should require a warrant. As one of the judges
    said it opens the door to all vehicles being tracked at all times for
    the convenience of the police.

    I'm in Canada - I just hope that similar surveillance requires a warrant
    (I don't really know if it does).


    > link to the registration database which keeps data on licensing and
    > insurance for both driver and vehicle, and whether vehicles have any
    > necessary test certificate. Any transgression and the vehicle is liable to
    > be stopped. Drivers who are lax over such rules are also likely to be using
    > drink or drugs or other illegal activity. This all seems reasonable to me.


    Here the police have it completely automated - they sit by the side of
    the road and the cameras read plates, the data is sent to a database
    system automatically and if there is an issue it is flagged back. Takes
    a couple seconds. If a car does not have its reg paid up, or the
    registered owner's license has issues, then that cop just signals a cop
    car down the road to wave him over.

    --
    gmail originated posts filtered due to spam.
     
    Alan Browne, Nov 10, 2011
    #5
  6. Sam Wormley

    Mike Coon Guest

    Alan Browne wrote:
    > On 2011-11-10 06:26 , Mike Coon wrote:
    >> I don't see the connection between "connecting a monitoring device
    >> to your property" and having monitoring cameras. In the UK the
    >> latter, complete with OCR, is very common, especially in most police
    >> patrol cars. There is also a

    >
    > There is a huge difference between spot sampling of cars for
    > automobile violations and tracking your every move 24/7 over
    > days/weeks/months. I'm in Canada - I just hope that similar surveillance
    > requires a
    > warrant (I don't really know if it does).


    One would hope so, like a phone tap. (?)

    > Here the police have it completely automated - they sit by the side of
    > the road and the cameras read plates, the data is sent to a database
    > system automatically and if there is an issue it is flagged back. Takes a
    > couple seconds. If a car does not have its reg paid up, or
    > the registered owner's license has issues, then that cop just signals
    > a cop car down the road to wave him over.


    That's how it works in the UK. There is similar technology for tracking
    average speed on motorways by checking when vehicles pass fixed unmanned
    cameras.

    Mike.
    --
    If reply address is Mike@@mjcoon.+.com (invalid), remove spurious "@"
    and substitute "plus" for +.
     
    Mike Coon, Nov 10, 2011
    #6
  7. Sam Wormley

    Ed M. Guest

    On Nov 10, 1:59 am, (Tony Mountifield) wrote:
    >
    > > JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: The GPS technology today is limited only by the
    > > cost of the instrument, which frankly right now is so small that it
    > > wouldn't take that much of a budget, local budget, to place a GPS on
    > > every car in the nation.

    >
    > What so many people get confused about is what a GPS unit does.
    >
    > It is a unit that can know where it is and what the time is, and could
    > store that data in its own memory. It does NOT automatically send that
    > information anywhere, and certainly not back via the satellites!
    >
    > The collection and collation of all that data from every GPS unit is
    > a MUCH bigger task than just putting a little cheap unit on everything.
    >
    > Does anyone ever point this out to non-techies?
    >
    > Cheers
    > Tony
    > --
    > Tony Mountifield
    > Work: -http://www.softins.co.uk
    > Play: -http://tony.mountifield.org


    Haven't found a description of the actual GPS device attached to
    Antoine Jones's Jeep. Since it was there for several weeks, it was
    likely a data logger, as Tony suggests.

    But there are other devices used by police that transmit data.
    Obviously they will have short battery life, or need to be attached to
    a vehicle's electrical system.

    From the US District Court case that preceded the Supreme Court case:

    http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2010/09/gps.pdf

    "This case itself illustrates how the sequence of a person's movements
    may reveal more than the individual movements of which it is composed.
    Having tracked Jones's movements for a month, the Government used the
    resulting pattern -- not just the location of a particular 'stash
    house' or Jones's movements on any one trip or even day -- as evidence
    of Jones's involvement in the cocaine trafficking business. The
    pattern the Government would
    document with the GPS data was central to its presentation of the
    case, as the prosecutor made clear in his opening statement:

    '[T]he agents and investigators obtained an additional order and that
    was to install a GPS. ... They had to figure out where is he going?
    When he says ten minutes, where is he going? Again, the pattern
    developed. ... And I want to ... just show you an example of how the
    pattern worked. ... The meetings are short. But you will again notice
    the pattern you will see in the coming weeks over and over again.' "

    "We note without surprise, therefore, that the Legislature of
    California, in making it unlawful for anyone but a law
    enforcement agency to 'use an electronic tracking device to determine
    the location or movement of a person,' specifically declared
    'electronic tracking of a person's location without that person's
    knowledge violates that person's reasonable expectation of privacy,'
    and implicitly but necessarily thereby required a warrant for police
    use of a GPS, California Penal Code section 637.7, Stats. 1998 c. 449
    (S.B. 1667) § 2."

    "Continuous human surveillance for a week would require all the time
    and expense of several police officers, while comparable photographic
    surveillance would require a net of video cameras so dense and so
    widespread as to catch a person's every movement, plus the manpower to
    piece the photographs together. Of course, as this case and
    some of the GPS cases in other courts illustrate, prolonged GPS
    monitoring is not similarly constrained. On the contrary, the marginal
    cost of an additional day -- or week, or month -- of GPS monitoring is
    effectively zero. Nor, apparently, is the fixed cost of installing a
    GPS device significant; the Los Angeles Police Department can now
    affix a GPS device to a passing car simply by launching a GPS-enabled
    dart.* For these practical reasons, and not by virtue of its
    sophistication or novelty, the advent of GPS technology has occasioned
    a heretofore unknown type of intrusion into an ordinarily and hitherto
    private enclave.

    * The darts consist of a miniaturized GPS receiver, radio transmitter,
    and battery embedded in a sticky compound material. When fired at a
    vehicle, the compound adheres to the target, and thereafter permits
    remote real-time tracking of the target from police headquarters.||
    Renee McDonald Hutchins, Tied Up in Knotts? GPS Technology and the
    Fourth Amendment, 55 UCLA L. Rev. 409, 419 (2007); see also Richard
    Winton, LAPD Pursues High-Tech End to High-Speed Chases, L.A. Times,
    Feb. 3, 2006, at B1. GPS darts are used in exigent circumstances and
    for only as long as it takes to interdict the subject driver without
    having to engage in a high-speed chase on a public way."

    The two references in the footnote:

    http://www.uclalawreview.org/pdf/55-2-3.pdf

    http://articles.latimes.com/2006/feb/03/local/me-bratton3

    The StarChase web site:

    https://www.starchase.com/products.html

    http://www.starchase.com/how-it-workss/faq.html

    This one mentions a lot of options in configuration and control:

    http://www.starchase.com/news/18/54/STARCHASE-ANNOUNCES-NEW-DISCREET-TRACKING-PRODUCT.html

    The company apparently got some grant money to develop these products:

    http://www.techjournalsouth.com/201...ts-away-with-1-2m-for-james-bond-like-device/

    A very loosely related topic in Bruce Schneier's blog:

    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2011/10/cell_phone_surv_1.html
     
    Ed M., Nov 11, 2011
    #7
  8. Sam Wormley

    macpacheco Guest

    On Nov 11, 12:50 am, "Ed M." <> wrote:
    > Haven't found a description of the actual GPS device attached to
    > Antoine Jones's Jeep.  Since it was there for several weeks, it was
    > likely a data logger, as Tony suggests.
    >
    > But there are other devices used by police that transmit data.
    > Obviously they will have short battery life, or need to be attached to
    > a vehicle's electrical system.


    There are devices that store data and transmit hourly updates (perhaps
    with once a minute positions).
    That avoids 99% of the power cost of a full time cell network
    connection, power up the cell connection, lock a signal, transmit,
    shutdown for an hour. With good cell signal this can be done in as
    little as 10 seconds. Also, the device can use a very basic low rate
    CDMA or GPRS connection (around 13kbps speed), that's enough to send
    hundreds of data points in just a few seconds of actual connection
    time.
    Most of the battery budget is the GPS receiver plus the data
    collection stuff.

    Marcelo Pacheco
     
    macpacheco, Nov 11, 2011
    #8
  9. Sam Wormley

    Alan Browne Guest

    On 2011-11-10 04:59 , Tony Mountifield wrote:
    > In article<>,
    > Ed M.<> wrote:
    >>
    >> http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/10-1259.pdf
    >>
    >> JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: The GPS technology today is limited only by the
    >> cost of the instrument, which frankly right now is so small that it
    >> wouldn't take that much of a budget, local budget, to place a GPS on
    >> every car in the nation.

    >
    > What so many people get confused about is what a GPS unit does.
    >
    > It is a unit that can know where it is and what the time is, and could
    > store that data in its own memory. It does NOT automatically send that
    > information anywhere, and certainly not back via the satellites!
    >
    > The collection and collation of all that data from every GPS unit is
    > a MUCH bigger task than just putting a little cheap unit on everything.
    >
    > Does anyone ever point this out to non-techies?


    There are GPS surveillance units that use SMS and other cellular
    networks to transmit the "tracked" vehicle data back to the device owner.

    The real issue is keeping the batteries charged or replaced (which is
    also an opportunity to switch units and recover data if it is only a
    logger).

    A sharp system could be connected to the vehicle electrical system in
    some manner if the cops have a way to get at it surreptitiously. Then
    it could send position reports or reduced logs at some constant rate
    virtually forever.

    --
    gmail originated posts filtered due to spam.
     
    Alan Browne, Nov 11, 2011
    #9
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