Client Alert

| January 26, 2012

Supreme Court Privacy Docket: Government Installation of a GPS Tracking Device is a Search under the Fourth Amendment

In a clash of majority and concurring opinions that mixes principles of 18th century tort law with angst over the 21st century digital surveillance state, the Supreme Court unanimously held this week that the warrantless installation of a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s car violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Although of primary significance in the realms of law enforcement and criminal procedure, the decision in United States v. Jones will reverberate in the larger policy debate over the privacy of Internet and cell-phone-dependent citizens whose lives are increasingly tracked and monitored in massive detail. The narrow holding in Jones, discussed below, only postpones this larger policy reckoning.

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