In a recent lawsuit involving police use of a GPS tracking device on a suspect's car for 28 days in the United States, the Supreme Court in its ruling termed such activity as unconstitutional and stated that it violates the Fourth Amendment. The Amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” This Amendment protects citizens and residents from house searches, property searches and other types of surveillance done by law enforcement officials without prior warrant.
A search warrant is needed to track a car
According to the New York Times, Antoine Jones, who was a nightclub owner in Washington, suspected of being involved in a cocaine selling operation, was being tracked when the police placed a GPS tracking device on his car for 28 days. The information collected in the process was used against him in court and he was given a life sentence. However, the court also ruled that more information than needed was collected from the GPS device, which was in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The use of the device on the suspect's car constituted a 'search', which was done without a warrant.
Five justices also voiced their concern over the government's access to citizen information from various forms of modern technology in public places. For example, surveillance cameras in public places, automatic toll payment booths and even location data gathered by cell phones. The main issue is individual privacy and how the government and law enforcement officials gather the data and use it.
India has similar search warrant laws and a Right to Privacy bill made an appearance, last year. Quoting the bill, privacy was defined as, “Every individual shall have a right to his privacy — confidentiality of communication made to, or, by him — including his personal correspondence, telephone conversations, telegraph messages, postal, electronic mail and other modes of communication; confidentiality of his private or his family life; protection of his honour and good name; protection from search, detention or exposure of lawful communication between and among individuals; privacy from surveillance; confidentiality of his banking and financial transactions, medical and legal information and protection of data relating to individual.” As technology in this country progresses, particularly in public spaces, privacy laws will need more attention, amendments to hold relevance.
Publish date: January 25, 2012 10:40 am| Modified date: December 18, 2013 9:26 pm