Washington -- In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court held this morning that government agents need to get a warrant from a judge before planting a GPS device on a person's car and using it to track the person.
"The Supreme Court today made it clear that it will not allow advancing technology to erode the Constitutional right of privacy," said Gregory T. Nojeim, Director of CDT's Project on Freedom, Security and Technology.
The Justice Department had argued that the GPS device, because it tracked the person's movements only on the public streets, did not raise any concern under the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which generally requires a warrant for searches and seizures. Not a single Justice agreed with the government on that issue.
Instead, all nine agreed that, under the facts of the case, the Constitution required a warrant issued by a judge. Five Justices agreed that any use of GPS planted by the government was a search generally requiring a warrant, effectively settling that issue.
The case also has implications for tracking individuals using cell phone tower data. Five Justices held that a warrant would have been required on the facts of this case even if the government tracking did not involve planting a GPS device. "Cell phone triangulation can be just as precise as GPS," Nojeim said. "Congress should build on this opinion by writing a statute that draws a bright line requiring the government, except in emergencies, to get a warrant before turning your cell phone into a tracking device."
CDT has helped to coordinate a coalition of major Internet companies
, think tanks and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum calling on Congress to require a warrant for cell phone tracking.
CDT filed an amicus brief
in the Supreme Court case, arguing that warrant is required for GPS tracking.