GPS Inventor Tells Supreme Court: GPS Tracking Without A Warrant Should Be Illegal

gps systemRoger Easton, the man who designed and invented the Global Positioning System (GPS), has formally asked the Supreme Court to consider his opinion during the highly anticipated United States V. Jones trial.

Mr Easton filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to the US Supreme Court for the United States v. Jones case. Easton wants the Supreme Court to take a closer look at how GPS tracking technology works and act to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.

The Jones case will set the precedent for the legality and limitations of GPS tracking without a warrant. The courts will address a question that has divided the lower courts: Do the police need a warrant to attach a GPS device to a suspect’s car and track its movements for weeks at a time?

The New York Times has called the upcoming US v. Jones case “the most important Fourth Amendment case in a decade.” The NY Times said, “the answer will bring Fourth Amendment law into the digital age, addressing how its 18th-century prohibition of “unreasonable searches and seizures” applies to a world in which people’s movements are continuously recorded by devices in their cars, pockets and purses, by toll plazas and by transit systems.

In the US v. Jones case, law enforcement agents installed a GPS tracking device on an automobile that was parked on private property.  They then used the GPS to track the position of the vehicle every ten seconds for a full month – without obtaining a search warrant.

A US Court of Appeals has already ruled that the surveillance was unconstitutional without a warrant, but the the Obama Administration has appealed the decision. The government has made it clear they believe GPS tracking devices may be affixed to suspects’ vehicles sans a warrant. They do not consider this to be an invasion of privacy or a violation of one’s 4th Amendment Rights.

On Mr. Easton’s side is Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn. He turned down a government request for 113 days of location data from cellphone towers, citing “Orwellian intrusion” and saying the courts must “begin to address whether revolutionary changes in technology require changes to existing Fourth Amendment doctrine.”

About Easton – Easton was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 2006, the nation’s highest technological honor.

Easton started working at the Naval Research Laboratory in 1943, and later helped develop MINITRACK, the very first satellite tracking system, which in turn led to the concept Easton dubbed TIMATION (short for “time navigation”). That was used to aid in the launch of four experimental satellites over the course of the 1960s and 1970s, the last of which was the first satellite to fly in the GPS 12-hour orbit and the first transmit GPS signals. In fact, the relativistic offset correction Easton applied to that satellite is still used by every GPS satellite now in orbit, and it also helped to experimentally verify Einstein’s theory of relativity for good measure. (Source: Business Wire)