In the fall of 2010, a college student in Santa Clara, California, found a peculiar object on the underside of his vehicle after a trip to the mechanic. The student's friend posted an online picture of the strange device asking for suggestions about its source and "if it mean[t] the [Federal Bureau of Investigation] 'is after us.'" As it turns out, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was secretly tracking the twenty-year- old Arab-American using a Global Positioning System (GPS) affixed to the underside of his vehicle. The FBI located the student two days after the posting and demanded the return of their expensive device. At the same time, federal agents spoke to the student in his native language, Arabic, about the restaurants he frequented, his new job, and how his recent trip to the mechanic triggered their belief that the device had been removed. Ultimately, the FBI reassured the student he had nothing to worry about, and that he was, in fact, "boring. " ...
This Comment seeks to demonstrate how the underpinning of the Supreme Court's definition of a search-whether society is willing to find an expectation of privacy reasonable-is not an appropriate standard for protection against "the all-seeing network of GPS satellites that hover overhead, which never sleep, never blink, . . . and never lose attention." Rather than await a decision from the Court, Congress is more suited to resolve the issue through comprehensive legislation that prohibits law enforcement from using a GPS device without first procuring a warrant. Part II describes the Court's interpretation of the Fourth Amendment as it applies to evolving technology; in doing so, Part II details the Court's transition from a trespass-based standard to a two-pronged reasonableness test, focusing on the seminal Court decisions that have shaped the debate over GPS technology today. Part III provides a brief overview of modern GPS capabilities for law enforcement and a discussion of the issues dividing the lower courts. Lastly, Part IV explains the challenges facing the Court in providing adequate protection from law enforcement's unrestricted use of GPS technology via the Fourth Amendment and how Congress should, instead, step in to protect this vital privacy interest.
Smith, Kimberly C.
"Hiding in Plain Sight: Protection from GPS Technology Requires Congressional Action, Not a Stretch of the Fourth Amendment,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 62
, Article 12.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol62/iss4/12