Monday’s Supreme Court ruling invalidating a conviction based on evidence gained by GPS tracking of a suspect's car might seem like a victory for privacy advocates. But on the critical issues of privacy and Fourth Amendment rights, the majority of the court actually punted.
The unanimous opinion issued Monday morning is among the first in which the Supreme Court has decided a case at the thorny 21st-Century intersection of law, technology and privacy. Police in Washington, D.C., had tracked a suspect by placing a tiny GPS device on his car, then tracking his movements for about a month. While the trial court held that evidence obtained through the GPS amounted to surveillance of the suspect's movements through public spaces, an appeals court ruled that it constituted an illegal search and seizure and a violation of Fourth Amendment rights. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision.