By contrast, the Court ruled the following year that when a beeper is taken inside a private home and reveals information that otherwise would have required a warrant to obtain, it is a search. S , —17 While it allowed law enforcement to do relatively precise tracking and to locate a person or item out of direct eyesight, it still required constant attention.
Weaver, N. These practices are upon us. Maynard, F. GPS devices use satellites to calculate their location with precision. While making car trips easier and faster, they also enable law enforcement agencies to track vehicles. Standalone GPS units can be surreptitiously attached to cars, 42 See, e. Once attached, a GPS device reports the location of the vehicle with precision and in real time. GPS devices are also used in cell phones to help calculate location for a variety of purposes.
Frontier Found. From relatively early on, courts have recognized that GPS allows for precise tracking on a monumental scale. GPS is not a mere enhancement of human sensory capacity, it facilitates a new technological perception of the world in which the situation of any object may be followed and exhaustively recorded over, in most cases, a practically unlimited period. Several years later, the Supreme Court was confronted with a similar case. In two concurring opinions, however, five members of the Court highlighted the privacy concerns raised by location tracking, emphasizing the length of the surveillance, the low cost and surreptitious nature, and the unmatched intrusiveness.
Only one court so far has addressed whether using a built-in GPS device without a warrant would constitute a search. July 22, These cell phones also effectively serve as personal tracking devices. When turned on, they constantly report their location to their cellular service provider, and service providers typically store that location data, at least temporarily. The proliferation of cell towers means that the precision of cell phone targeting is increasing exponentially, perhaps to a point of even greater precision than GPS data.
Needed for a Criminal Investigation, F.
Carpenter, F. Graham, F. Other technologies come into play as well. Smartphones equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology continuously send out signals with identifying information to establish connections; any receiver can determine which phone is where at any given time, and how long it has been there. Phones can also determine their locations via GPS satellites. Insider Apr. In the meantime, third party applications can request access to that location data, 61 The Problem with Mobile Phones , supra note In addition, as of late , nearly fifty state and local police departments in the United States were known to be using a device popularly called a Stingray to directly intercept all cell phone signals in a given area.
Stingrays pretend to be cell towers, forcing all cell phones in their vicinity to connect through them and reveal at least their approximate location, even without making a call. Notably, they work only when the cell phone is not in use—that is, precisely when the average user would have no reason to believe his location could be revealed.
Andrews, A. Not only are phones pervasive, but unlike cars, they go nearly everywhere. California , S. Powell, F. It is thus no surprise that a majority of lower courts have held that acquiring real-time location information via cell phone tracking, particularly for more than a few days, requires probable cause and a search warrant. Johnson, No. In re Application of the U. Surveys have also reflected this sentiment, with cell phone users expressing concerns about tracking and attempting to take precautions to block such monitoring.
See, e. July 29, describing surveys ; Tracey v. State, So. However, a few courts have allowed the government to obtain cell phone location information in real-time or prospectively without a warrant by combining multiple statutory justifications. And some have held that there is simply no expectation of privacy in cell location information. Skinner, F. State, S. At least two courts have extended this reasoning to Stingrays, holding that they also require a warrant because of the significant privacy intrusion they enable and because they allow the police to locate people whom they would not have been able to find otherwise.
Lambis, No. July 12, In the main, courts view this data as governed by the third party records doctrine, which holds that there is no expectation of privacy in information that has been voluntarily shared with a third party—here, the cell phone provider. Maryland, U. Miller, U. Lang , 78 F.
But see United States v. Cooper, No. This doctrine is losing force in the context of digital data, but it has not yet been authoritatively narrowed or overturned. This approach is ill suited to the digital age, in which people reveal a great deal of information about themselves to third parties in the course of carrying out mundane tasks. Video is a relatively old form of public surveillance, but it is continually being enhanced as the technology develops.
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Times Feb. La Vigne et al. Facial recognition technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated as well, and police departments are beginning to augment surveillance cameras with real-time facial scanning. But see Zetter, supra note 78 noting that facial-recognition system failed to identify Boston Marathon bombing suspects because surveillance cameras did not take full-frontal images.
Accountability Office , supra note 80, at 35— Times Oct. Post Feb. Even cities without such comprehensive surveillance may nevertheless have access to hundreds or thousands of surveillance cameras, in both public and private networks. Police department and a private security company, resulting in an additional cameras for the police department. Some jurisdictions monitor their video feeds in real time, while others save the recordings for later viewing as needed, and many models provide both capabilities.
Evidence that surveillance cameras deter crime is mixed at best. McLean, Robert E. Some studies have found that cameras contribute to a reduction in property crime, particularly vehicle thefts, but their impact is difficult to assess reliably since they are often coupled with other crime prevention efforts. Because surveillance in public areas typically has been deemed not to be a Fourth Amendment search in the first place, 88 California v.
Ciraolo, U. Vankesteren, F. United States, F. Augafa, P. State, A.
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But see State v. Costin, A. The landscape may be beginning to change. Vargas, No.
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Thomas, N. Nevertheless, there is little consensus so far. Cuevas-Sanchez, F. City of Boulder, F. Houston, F. Drones are unmanned flying crafts that can be as small as an insect or as large as a passenger jet. Thompson II, Cong.
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Research Serv. Much like surveillance cameras, they can be outfitted with a host of technologies, including high-powered cameras, thermal imaging devices, license plate readers, laser radar, eavesdropping devices, see-through imaging, scent detection, signals interception, and direction finding capabilities; facial or other biometric recognition devices are likely not far behind.
Takahashi, Drones and Privacy , 14 Colum. One Oct. Drones are lighter than airplanes, generally cheaper, and require less fuel and no pilot. Kelly, Assistant Dir. Affairs, FBI, to Sen. The Customs and Border Protection arm of the Department of Homeland Security also has the authority to use drones in support of various federal, state, and local law enforcement activities, though flights are currently required to take place at heights that would largely preclude the collection of license plate data or facial pictures.
In addition, some local police departments have won permission to test and operate drones, though others have had their proposals squelched after public outcry. The Supreme Court historically has been unconcerned about surveillance by airplanes; those have been in the context of a one-time flyover, however, conducted at heights above the standard altitude at which drones are permitted to operate and thus likely to pick out less detail.
Riley, U. Davis, P.
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License plate readers are also in increasingly wide use. Readers, which automatically capture the license plate numbers of passing cars, may be mounted on stationary poles, moving police cruisers, or handheld devices. Davila, N.