Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area (ACLU-NCA) urged a U.S. appeals court today to reject government claims that federal agents have an unfettered right to install Global Positioning System (GPS) location-tracking devices on anyone's car without a search warrant.
In this case, FBI agents planted a GPS device on a car while it was on private property and then used it to track the position of the automobile every ten seconds for a full month, all without securing a warrant. In an amicus brief filed today, EFF and the ACLU-NCA argue that unsupervised use of such tactics would open the door for police to abuse their power and continuously track anyone's physical location for any reason -- never having to go to a judge to prove the surveillance is justified.
"This gives police unbridled discretion to collect location data on everyone, even if there are no reasonable grounds for suspicion," said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. "Investigators could track Americans on a whim -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
At the same time, the cost of GPS tracking is dropping dramatically, while the accuracy keeps improving. This would allow law enforcement to create a massive database of Americans' movements without any judicial oversight whatsoever.
"GPS tracking enables the police to know when you visit your doctor, your lawyer, your church or your lover," said Arthur Spitzer, Legal Director of the ACLU-NCA. "And if many people are tracked, GPS data will show when and where they cross paths. Judicial supervision of this powerful technology is essential if we are to preserve individual liberty."
Daniel Prywes and Kip Wainscott of Bryan Cave LLP also volunteered their services to assist in preparing the EFF-ACLU brief
For the full amicus brief:
Jennifer Stisa Granick
Civil Liberties Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation