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Pittsburgh GPS case prompts privacy concerns

October 21, 2008 by  

Does GPS surveillance violate privacy? A court case that is currently in the federal courts in Pittsburgh could help set a precedent for how law enforcement officials handle global positioning system data.

The issue centers on whether or not police officers should be required to demonstrate probable cause and obtain search warrants before they track suspects using GPS, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

Federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials are seeking permission to obtain information on a suspect’s location using data stored by their cell phone – either in real time or via historic records.

They say that electronic surveillance is less expensive and more effective than following someone in a vehicle.

However, some privacy advocates have raised concerns about the possibility that this technology violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Some of the legal questions about the use of GPS concern whether or not a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy when their vehicle is driving on a public road.

"The government and police say they are trying to keep people safe, but our rights do come into question. It’s a balancing act," civil rights attorney Sam Cordes told the news provider.

Developed by the U.S. Department of Defense, GPS uses satellites and monitoring stations to provide 3D location information, along with the time.
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