UPDATE: You May Have a GPS Tracker On Your Car And Not Know It

UPDATE: The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that a warrant must be obtained by law enforcement in order to track a suspect via GPS device. GPS tracking was found to constitute a "search or seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment," therefore violating a suspect's rights when carried out without a proper search warrant.

Many of our readers have expressed concern over the unwarranted use of GPS devices and the 'Big Brother' paranoia such surveillance creates, while others have argued that these tactics could be of great assistance to law enforcement. How do you feel about the Supreme Court ruling? Sound off in comments.

Have you ever been driving along when suddenly you get the sense that you're being followed?

Over-the-counter GPS tracking products are being put into cars by everyone from the FBI to car dealers and finance companies to cuckolded husbands, and wives who suspect their husbands of cheating. Don't get us wrong--we're all for equipping our law enforcement agencies with the latest technology to catch the bad guys, but we also value our constitutional rights to privacy and protection from unreasonable search and seizure. And, frankly, the notion of being unwittingly monitored by anyone with the means to a GPS tracking device and access to your ride is just plain creepy.

We're not the only ones who feel conflicted. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an Obama Administration appeal of the overturned ruling in the case of Antoine Jones. In 2008 Jones was convicted of operating a cocaine ring based on evidence gathered via a GPS device that police used to track his Jeep. A federal appeals court dismissed the conviction, arguing that police had violated Jones' 4th Amendment rights by installing the device without a search warrant. There are similar cases, however, that have upheld evidence gathered during unwarranted GPS tracking on the basis that citizens cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy when driving or parking their vehicles in public.

Whatever the Supreme Court decides will likely be the final word on warrantless GPS tracking, but in the meantime, if you think your car is being tracked you might want to check for the device in these places:

  • Are You Being Followed?
  • Do you ever get that feeling that you're being followed? Maybe you are. Everyone from law enforcement to car dealers are using GPS Devices to track people's rides. If you suspect something is up, you might want to check the following places on your vehicle.

  • Image Credit: GARYCRANE, FLICKR
Under Your Car
  • Under Your Car
  • Last year, 20-year-old college student Yasir Afifi found this GPS tracking device underneath his car during a routine oil change. The device was affixed by magnet "near the exhaust but further in," according to Afifi's friend who turned to the online community Reddit to identify the device.

    According to Afifi, FBI agents approached him to retrieve the device days after its discovery. Despite being a U.S. citizen, he was apparently under suspicion due to his frequent travels to Egypt and the Middle East, and for being the son of a Muslim community leader.

Under Your Dash
  • Under Your Dash
  • Conley Moret owns a car dealership that serves folks with bad or no credit. As part of his sales agreement, Moret equips his vehicles with GPS tracking devices. One of Moret's customers fell behind on their payments and tried to make off with the vehicle without ponying up the money owed. According to a press release from Rocky Mountain Tracking, Moret was able to use a Smart Tracker GPS device purchased from the company to retrieve the stolen vehicle.

    According to RMT's website, "the [Smart Tracker] unit is most commonly mounted under the dash inside the vehicle," but they do sell internal and external waterproof mounts as well. Unlike some of the GPS tracking devices used by law enforcement, the Smart Tracker can be purchased online by anyone for the modest price of $175. That's a bargain for the car dealer or finance company who stand to lose a lot more if a strapped car owner tries to skip on payments. And here's the irony: the price of the tracker is almost certainly dialed into the sticker price.

Pretty Much...Anywhere
  • Pretty Much...Anywhere
  • Rocky Mountain Tracking offers another unique GPS device called the Tracking Key. This unit ships with a USB connector which, when plugged into your PC, rebuilds all travel activity and presents them in custom reports and animated map routes. Another nifty feature is the built-in motion detector which extends the life of the AAA batteries which power the unit.

    Best of all--or worst of all, depending on your point of view--the Tracking Key is water resistant and equipped with a powerful magnet, used to mount the unit. In other words: no fussy instillation required. You can be on your way to stalking your prey in less than a day! (Our words, not theirs).

What Gives You The Right?
  • What Gives You The Right?
  • All kidding aside, there are many legitimate reasons one might require a GPS tracking device, from parents keeping tabs on their teen drivers to rental car services staying on top of their fleet. But, until the Supreme Court defines what crosses the line, we remain a bit suspicious.


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