On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that police must obtain a warrant before using a GPS device to track a vehicle — a major victory for privacy rights supporters. "The government's installation of a GPS device on a target's vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle's movements, constitutes a 'search,'" said Justice Antonin Scalia, representing the five-justice majority. (The other four arrived at the same decision but wrote other, concurring opinions). The ruling has some Americans outraged, since the extra steps police must take to get a warrant might allow lawbreakers to go undetected for longer. What should we make of this ruling?
It doesn't go far enough: This decision is a "major victory" for people who demand a "clear translation of basic constitutional rights in the digital age," says Kade Crockford at Boston.com. But if anything, the ruling doesn't go far enough, largely because it doesn't extend to GPS tracking on a person's phone. The government has already shown its "keen interest in mobile phone tracking and obtaining information about us from third-party holders without warrants." Now that our phones are packed with all of our private information, these issues "could not be more important."
"Victory! Government must get a warrant to use GPS tracking devices on our cars"
This is outrageous: The Supreme Court's decision is "simply wrong," argues David Coursey at Forbes. Now that law enforcement officials will need "probable cause" to track a vehicle, criminals have the green light to "behave even more boldly, knowing their movements are now more difficult to track without detection." The way we're going, "how long will it be until any form of police surveillance requires a warrant? At this rate, not very long, I fear."
"Criminals laud Supreme Court GPS decision (or should)"
And we can't keep looking to the past for answers: "All nine of the justices, I suspect, would be relieved if Congress would take on the tough questions posed by the combination of computer power and ubiquitous tracking devices," says Garrett Epps at The Atlantic. Because in a technology-driven age, there will only be more "difficult questions" to answer. And we need to stop looking to the past for solutions. "Could colonial sheriffs have smuggled a tiny constable into a carriage?" Of course not. So why does the Supreme Court keep relying on the precedent of 18th-century legal wisdom to make these decisions?
"Justice Scalia turns to 18th-century wisdom for guidance on GPS"