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Privacy

Submission + - GPS Surveillance case heads to Supreme Court (thecrimereport.org)

rocket rancher writes: "The case before the Court concerns a 2004 investigation by a task force of FBI agents and officers of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department of a suspected drug trafficker named Antoine Jones. Officers had obtained a warrant for a GPS tracking device, but they didn't place the device until after the ten-day window to plant the device had expired. Jones appealed his conviction and won, arguing that the prolonged GPS surveillance by the government, without a valid warrant, constituted an illegal search. The government is maintaining that it didn't actually need the warrant in the first place, because this type of surveillance is not prohibited by the fourth amendment, and that to prohibit it would jeopardize the ability of the government to conduct any kind of long-term surveillance. The three-judge D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, comprised of a Reagan, a Clinton, and a Bush II apointee, overturned the conviction, ruling that Jones had a "reasonable expectation" of privacy because all of his movements over a prolonged period were not actually "exposed" to the public. The summation, from Reagan appointee Douglas Ginsberg, was quite succinct.

"First, unlike one's movements during a single journey, the whole of one's movements over the course of a month is not actually exposed to the public because the likelihood anyone will observe all those movements is effectively nil.

"Second, the whole of one's movements is not exposed constructively even though each individual movement is exposed, because that whole reveals more, sometimes a great deal more, than does the sum of its parts."

The amount of information that we reveal over the course of our day-to-day lives can be organized into profiles that can reveal much that we never intended to be revealed in public. I doubt the Supreme's decision either way is going to change the fact that the government will continue to build profiles on everybody of interest to it. Upholding the appeal would probably not have the dire consequences that the government think it would, but I suspect that it would be a victory for privacy advocates, and anybody who has noted and is dismayed by the progress of the US down the slippery slope to a surveillance state."

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