Just recently the U.S. Justice Department along with the Obama administration defended the use of GPS tracking on citizens without a warrant. The administration says there aren’t any laws that require them to issue a warrant and will be appealing last year's Supreme Court decision on the matter this week.
The U.S. Department of Justice along with the Obama administration is still maintaining the position that a warrant is not needed for them to legally track someone with a GPS device. This came after last year’s Supreme Court’s opinion that GPS tracking devices are the same as a search, and that is protected by the U.S. Constitution. Last year's SC decision created a lot of unanswered questions that will be cleared up this week in the court of appeals.
Catherine Crump, who serves as a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), wrote an article for the ACLU website concerning the decision and explained that while they did say it was a 4th Amendment issue, they didn’t say if a warrant was needed.
In regards to the U.S. v. Jones landmark decision by the Supreme Court, Crump says, “Although the Court’s decision in Jones makes clear that the government’s attachment and use of a GPS tracker on a car constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment, it does not say whether that search requires a warrant from a judge—a crucial protection because it forces agents to justify their actions to a neutral outsider.” Crump further argues that the court’s opinion in the matter never addressed other technologies being used such as smartphone tracking, camera monitoring and face recognition technologies or even the use of drones to follow and record a person’s movements.
The Justice Department will make their appeal this week before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This court will decide on the higher court’s 2012 opinion on the GPS device tracking. The Feds will further argue that the court has in the past given police agencies broad exemptions from warrants such as with public school searches, the U.S. Border Patrol and their procedures and even airport security that involves searches without warrants.
Last year when the SC made their decision on GPS tracking, the Justice Department temporarily terminated the use over 3000 GPS trackers on individual's cars and bikes. If the department is able to win their argument concerning the tracking technology, the Supreme Court’s opinion will be ignored, and therefore giving the Feds unlimited tracking technology techniques without any restrictions or warrants issued.