Originally published: January 25, 2012
Last updated: January 25, 2012 - 4:53pm
When discussing constitutional law, it's become a cliché to mention how the founding fathers didn't have newfangled modern technologies. GPS systems, computers, atomic bombs... none of those existed in the era of Franklin, Washington, and Madison. Like many ideas, this is a cliché because it's true.
In a ruling earlier this week (United States vs. Jones), the Supreme Court decided that attaching GPS trackers to vehicles without warrants violates the Fourth Amendment. The Court decided in a majority opinion that the use of GPS trackers without a warrant impinges on our right to be free of unreasonable searches... but, here's the kicker: a minority of justices, headed by Samuel Alito, argued that long-term GPS tracking--with or without a warrant--violates privacy expectations. In other words, every justice on the Supreme Court has reservations about using GPS tracking as a law enforcement tool. As the disruptive technology boom of the past twenty years matures, the Supreme Court will be seeing many more cases like this. GPS systems, smartphones, unmanned aerial vehicles, cyberattacks, online commerce, and digital copyright law are all on the cutting edge of law--and how the Supreme Court (and others) interpret them will set the stage for decades to come.