warrantless gps tracking thoughts

Wired posted up an article that made the Twitter rounds yesterday, “Busted! Two New Fed GPS Trackers Found on SUV”. I have a few thoughts to share on why this is important in total, but this particular instance isn’t quite so important. As a quick recap, a California man found various different GPS units on his car and even had a report of the Feds messing with his girlfriend’s car.

1. This guy may be innocent, but there are certainly reasons to track his whereabouts. His cousin is a wanted man. He drove his cousin’s wife to Mexico (where presumably his cousin is). Gosh, let’s see, I would imagine LEO is tracking him in case he goes to wherever his cousin is hiding. I bet this would qualify as a justified reason to track his vehicle. All I’m saying here is this wasn’t necessarily some completely innocent person who has no connections or ties to anything. He’s, at best, an unfortunate collateral damage because of his family members.

2. He does have a point where people may see someone tampering with his car. If my neighbors see someone tampering with my car, they may formulate an opinion of me and how maybe I’m a bad person because it looks like someone is GPS-tracking my vehicle. They may also think someone planted a bomb or some other nefarious device and report it to LEO. And suddenly I’m “on the grid” and “in the system.” If that happens because of some mixup or random GPS-tracking on me (who is otherwise about as clean as anyone), that would really suck. I really don’t want to do anything to get my name circulating in a flawed system upon which many things depend, ya know?

Granted, proving damages to reputation due to witnessed LEO involvement with me is probably never going to actually work in court.

The point is: mistakes happen, and it would really suck to be on the receiving end of a LEO/Fed mistake.

3. Without transparency and controls to some effect, I’m a firm believer that eventually (especially as more human beings become involved) a process will be subverted for non-official or non-moral reasons. Maybe to track a husband, or a friend’s girlfriend, or political dissidents, or whathaveyou. If it can be done, I’ll pretty much bet it will be done.

4. I’m not really sure why it would be such a bad deal to require warrants for GPS-tracking a vehicle. Perhaps there are other insinuations about tracking someone’s movements in public place (streets) and a slippery slope of judicial precendence there. That’s certainly possible since I’ve not studied up on this issue (I believe there is a court case and even legislation involved that I’m not familiar with.)

Lastly, this isn’t the last time we hear of this. We have issues already with in-car services doing tracking, cell phone tracking by private corps, and credit/debit histories. And it’s naive to think they *don’t* sell and/or give that information away in any way that will help their business. We also have an increasing number of traffic cameras being implement and increasingly scary amounts of license plate scanning on the roads and even facial recognition scanning!

So, in a way, this is a losing battle, but a battle that really needs to be fought. This process is essentially the reason we have a country like we do in the first place.