By Susanne Posel
The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (USCA3) decided that police officers must obtain a warrant before a GPS device is attacked to track the vehicle of a suspect.
This includes the collection of mobile phone location information and GPS data during investigations as a matter of privacy infringement.
This ruling addresses an issue remaining from the US v. Katzin applying to the 4th Amendment.
The 4th Amendment states : “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
In the case US v. Jones , the US Supreme Court upheld that GPS devices were understood to constitute as a search under the 4th Amendment; however the decision to mandate warrants prior to using a tracking device was not established.
Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) commented : “Today’s decision is a victory for all Americans because it ensures that the police cannot use powerful tracking technology without court supervision and a good reason to believe it will turn up evidence of wrongdoing. These protections are important because where people go reveals a great deal about them, from who their friends and business associates are to what doctors they go to.”
In 2012, the Obama administration gave their consent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to mandate black box event data recorders (EDR) be installed in all new cars in the US.
The NHTSA says that by September 2014 all car and light trucks will beequipped with EDRs that will silently “record the actions of drivers and the responses of their vehicles in a continuous information loop.”
The information recorded by EDRs includes:
• vehicle speed
• whether the brake was activated in the moments before a crash
• crash forces at the moment of impact
• information about the state of the engine throttle
• air bag deployment timing and air bag readiness prior to the crash
• whether the vehicle occupant’s seat belt was buckled
Advanced EDRs can collect detailed information about drivers and their driving habits; including the size and weight of the driver, the seat position, the habits of the driver as well as passengers.
EDR information has become common place as evidence in lawsuits, criminal cases and high-profile accidents.
The Congressional legislation would not allow for an opt-out option and federal regulations would demand that automakers give over the data recorded on the EDR to federal agencies at their discretion. In fact, the NHTSA admits that they cannot “impose limits as how the information can be used and other privacy protections.”
The CDR software has been installed in 2013 vehicle models of:
• General Motors
Earlier this year, S.1813, “Mandatory Event Data Recorders”, a.k.a. MAP-21, was championed by Senators harry Reid and Barbara Boxer and called the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.”
According to the bill: “Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to require, beginning with model year 2015, that new passenger motor vehicles sold in the United States be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements under that part.”
The data recorder would be property of the owner of the car; however the government would have complete access to the data inside under specific circumstances such as court order.
Failure to adhere to court orders or even having the EDR installed in a vehicle would result in civil penalties against American citizens.
The Secretary of Transpiration would be charged with extracting the data through investigation or inspection.
In 2011, David Strickland of the NHTSA said that the US government was considering forcing this black box technology onto the car manufacturers and recall millions of Toyotas to refit them with these devices.
Strickland accurately predicted that the NHTSA would make a formal announcement about these black boxes and the mandates for installing them.