Without exaggeration, this is exactly how innocent people, some of them teenagers, ended up in Gitmo (and are still there) via vague tips from people who didn't like their neighbors and decided to deal with it by reporting them.
If you want to burry your neighbor -- submit an anonymous tip about them being a terrorist, child pornographer or a illegal music downloader. With a bit of luck, their life will be completely ruined.
I remember stories from Soviet Union how neighbors would make up stories about each other and denounce them as conducting anti-party propaganda, because say, they insulted them or moved the fence too close. It was the amazing ease and predictability with which this process worked.
People make comments about people from the US being "sent to Gitmo" for daring to stand up to authority here, but it's worth noting that nobody has been taken from inside the US and held in Guantanamo.
Having noted that, I think we find we don't even need to litigate Gitmo here. Which is a good thing, because I think you'll have a hard time finding a lot of people to disagree with you in interesting ways about it. Of course military and intelligence agencies shouldn't have taken innocent people from Afghanistan and stuck them in a brig without due process rights. Thankfully, that has little to do with what the FBI does in San Jose.
No, we avoid this problem by killing natural born US citizens outside the country before they can be put on trial. Far easier politically that way.
Why does it even matter WHERE a teenager is from if they are innocent? Why would you imprison and fly them out of their own country before you know if they are actually guilty of anything? Then treat them so badly over years that you can never release them again because they will become a terrorist against you for the way you treated them?
Everything has become so polarized it's almost impossible to have a discussion that crosses any sort of substantive divide.
Even the slightest hint of apostasy indicates the speaker to be an obviously evil individual who completely and utterly opposes every rational or moral concept and indeed fact that all our right-thinking intellectual cohorts believe.
Want to do something about giant banks fucking up our country? Sorry, you're a socialist loser who still lives in your mother's basement, your point is invalid, discussion over.
Concerned that the process of science is becoming corrupted in climatology due to group-think? Sorry, you're a global warming denialist (which is as bad as if not probably worse than a holocaust denier, sorry to say), your point is invalid, discussion over.
Yeah, it's more than a little disheartening.
But when there are real things being done right now by your government in your name causing innocent people to suffer, I cannot fathom a middle-ground on that.
First, stop the process and THEN we can have a calm, intellectual discussion about if it's right or wrong. But not while someone is aggressively doing something against another without public approval.
It's easy to call for dispassion when one isn't directly affected by an issue, how would you react if was your neighbor, family or yourself?
^They don't admit this part for obvious reasons. And they also say waterboarding isn't torture...
I even left some hints:
Furthermore, his point is logically sound: In a world where governments are permitted to keep secrets, they are effectively able to keep secret what they are keeping secret, by simple induction.
It's like comparing the Japanese American Interment Camps to Auschwitz.
Talk to the countless East Germans who were imprisoned b/c of a tip from one of the thousands of Stasi informants. See if their stories in any way compare to the people who were swept up in the red scare.
I am not suggesting the two are the same, but rather that thinking about the two at the same time and deciding in what ways they are the same and in what ways they are different is a useful exercise.
You can't argue from a position that says "surveillance" and "arrest" are the same thing. They are simply not the same thing. The police cannot arrest you at will. An arrest is a big deal.
Still, it's sad to think the most effective / damaging / and possibly profitable approach for a risk averse terrorist might be to pretend to be a overly helpful.
But that is exaggeration. The tip led to him being observed, not being ported off to Gitmo. So it's no where near being "exactly" like these innocent people being sent to Gitmo. If anything, your only hurting your case by sensationalizing it. Does it not stand on it's own?
That this was done with a GPS device as opposed to being tailed by people doesn't strike me as a big difference (if only that the GPS device is more accurate and less invasive).
> That this was done with a GPS device as opposed to
> being tailed by people doesn't strike me as a big
What's the difference between having a cop watch a street corner vs installing a security camera? You can install a lot of security cameras for the same cost as hiring a police officer or FBI agent.
It's the same case here. They can track a lot more people via GPS devices when they don't have to pay for agents (agent salaries + car + gas) to tail someone.
I mean, at ~$400 a pop, how many GPS devices can you get for the cost of a single agent? And a list of GPS coordinates is something that can easily be processed automatically to look for patterns.
Surveillance is like that. It’s more than just being cheaper than having an officer follow a suspect around. It has become so cheap that agencies can now (or will very soon) be able to simply follow everyone, everywhere, without the slightest need for justification. Collect all the data, store it away, and if you later suspect them of a crime, you can open up the archives and look at everywhere they have been and everything they have said in their entire lifetime.
By following everyone, everywhere, law enforcement can effectively go back in time. Joe Blough is a drug dealer? Interesting. Whose car has been on his street in the past five years? Who called him and who did he call? Who is on his Facebook or in his Google+ circles?
Look at that, he plays Settlers of Catan with Thomas Rapido. Pull up Tom's data. Interesting, he’s married but his car has spent a lot of time at stripper clubs. Bet his wife doesn’t know that, call him in and threaten to tell her if Tom doesn’t cooperate with us.
> Bet his wife doesn’t know that, call him in and threaten to tell her if Tom doesn’t cooperate with us.
Because, let's be honest, the "scale" argument is pretty well worn (and one I've yet to see argued well).
So, I'm going to assume this is where it breaks down. How this information can be used against you, even if you didn't do anything illegal. At least, that's the point you are trying to make. The important part isn't that this can't be done now, but the scale at which it can be done.
With this in mind, the problem isn't on the data retrieval side, but on the data retention rules, as well as the rules regarding how that data can be used.
More importantly, tracking is now cheaper, more efficient then before, more accurate, and less invasive.
You're scenario is fairly pointless. I can easily come up with arguments that make it a no brainer (Joe Blough is a murderer and Tom is covering for him).
So the question is, why are you so concerned with the capture of data when the negative you present isn't on the capture side?
However, the issue with these devices as I understand it is that the government’s position is, “We don’t need a check and balance, because we’re collecting information that doesn’t invade privacy.”
And my position is, if the information can be used to harm a citizen, then collecting and storing it should be subject to the check and balance of judicial oversight.
Capturing data on the off-chance that it might turn up something or be useful some day can be used harmfully, and therefore I want oversight before it is collected.
> So the question is, why are you so concerned with the
> capture of data when the negative you present isn't
> on the capture side?
Here's a negative with the capture side though: it is another small step in the transfer of power from the hands of the people into the hands of the government.
1) Build a large infrastructure that allows you to view the activities of anyone, anywhere, but not anytime. You have to be viewing it in real-time, there is no storage mechanism.
2) Now that people are comfortable with cameras and listening devices everywhere, add a provision allowing storage with a 1 month time limit.
3) Now that people are comfortable with a 1 month time limit, increase it to 2 months.
n) Now increase it to n months.
Limit as n approaches infinity.
Note that every time some major terrorist event happens the politicians will add larger bumps (than the normal grind) to the retention limit.
Because they are different. If the data is collected, but only kept for a period of time determined by some oversight committee, then where is the harm?
> it is another small step in the transfer of power from the hands of the people into the hands of the government.
So, you're arguing against even allowing warrants (which are handed out by the government)? Because if one branch can oversee warrants, they can also provide oversight on the other end as well.
The rest of your comment saps your credibility.
"Some pissed off cop can just" &c &c &c --- well, let's not discuss what the police should be able to do at all then, because this is logic that inevitably ends up with us throwing up our hands. Or, because we're on Hyperbolic News, having a debate about whether the citizens of a truly free society need police at all.
"The administration, which is attempting to overturn a lower court ruling that threw out a drug dealer’s conviction over the warrantless use of a tracker, argues that citizens have no expectation of privacy when it comes to their movements in public so officers don’t need to get a warrant to use such devices."
I don't immediately see why that wouldn't apply to law enforcement cars in public, as well. It would be a boon to criminals, though, unfortunately. (Hm, which now makes me wonder if it could be happening already by more advanced criminal organizations?)
Only if it were real-time. If there were a 7 day lag on the data being publicized it would prove the point without giving the possibility of using the data to evade police in the moment.
And on this note... does anybody actually know what happened to the original GIA site? Did they just get bored with the idea, or were they pressured into shutting it down, or what?
Here is the issue: Whether the Constitution allows police to put a tracking device on a car without either a warrant or the owner's permission; and whether the Constitution is violated when police use the tracking device to keep track of the car's whereabouts.
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
People are arguing that putting a tracking device on a car constitutes a search.
Or by tracking everywhere you go and correlating that with tracks of other known suspects and then extending that to tracking people that you travel near they are approaching "unreasonable search and invasion of privacy".
For example you can hardly object to the police office outside the bank seeing your car at the scene and radioing that in - but that's different to having a police officer follow you around 24x7 and asking the name and address of everyone you speak to.
That would remove any concern over civil liberties
Also, with that level of snark, I have to ask, what do you propose as an alternative?
Then they will spend all their time and effort fighting each other for funding jurisdiction and media spotlight that they leave the innocent bystanders alone.
Of course they wont catch any criminals - but no plan is perfect.
Actually, wait... on second thought, an even better plan would be to disassemble it, and hack it to report bogus data. Like, have it show me doing nothing but driving around in circles around Groom Lake for hours on end, then "magically" transporting to Edwards AFB.
It’s far better to work to make such activities illegal than to do your complaining from behind bars.
No, it's against "the law." It's hardly a crime.
But semantic distinctions aside, I really don't care if it's a crime or not. If the US governments fucks with me and pisses me off, I'm going to do what I'm going to do.
That's not really an either/or thing. They haven't (yet, as far as I know) put one of these on my car, and I work on making things like this illegal though the political process . And I'll continue to do so, up until the (hypothetical) day that I wind up behind bars for fucking with one of their silly little tracking devices.
All that said, I can't imagine them ever getting a conviction in a jury trial, on a charge of "tampering with a government owned device" if it's not labeled or anything. It's totally reasonable to say "Oh, I found this thing on my car and I didn't know what it was so I took it off and threw it away" or "I knew what it was, but I assumed my crazy stalker ex-girlfriend put it there," etc. Getting any reasonable jury to convict on this would be insanely difficult.
How many of you that are outraged by this leave location services enabled on your smartphone 24/7? How do hourly location reports compare to the endless stream of information available from your dormant smartphone? A stream that can be provided to police in real-time without leaving a single shred of evidence. At least a little black box is minimally visible, has a finite power source, and has to be placed and maintained by a person who can be observed.
So one guy gets GPS'd because of a vague tip and the other guy because his cousin might be a drug dealer. Yikes.
While we can debate whether this is sufficient cause for a planted tracking device, the connection between him and his cousin is a lot less casual than what you state.
1. Citizens start throwing these devices into large bodies of water.
2. Armed citizen returns to vehicle at night, in mall or office parking lot, as suspicious man stands up from behind citizen's rear wheel well. Citizen draws down on Federal officer, one or both parties end up dead.
So it might be hard to execute, but certainly still a good idea. I just wanted to point out that GPS logging is entirely passive; only the transmission can be detected.
This is not entirely true, for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radar_detector_detector
It appears that many, if not all GPS devices use superheterodyne receiver as well.
I'm not sure what to do about it, or more importantly how to get people to care. It's like the article a while back (I'll try to find the source on it) that quoted a huge percentage of people as being opposed to government survelliance who only two years earlier had vehemently defended it as necessary for security. It's called a slippery slope for a reason, and every time the Patriot Act it is reauthorized without consideration is a slap in the face to the Founding Fathers who refused to sign the Constitution without a Bill of Rights.
The thing that bothers me the most is the "Conservatives" (who are supposed to be in favor of small, unintrusive government) that hook-and-line fall for the "Patriotism" guise and excuse these government intrusions with, at times, absurd leaps of logic (that often fly in the face of evidence and statistics from the very organizations carrying out these actions).
* I'm a good-faith commenter on HN and not inclined to troll you or piss you off for no reason.
* I'm a liberal Democrat.
* I donate money to the ACLU.
* I do not think it is unreasonable for law enforcement agencies to designate, during the course of an actual investigation of a specific target, individual cars for GPS surveillance:
- so long as removing the devices if they're detected isn't a crime
- and research and development of technologies that shield cars from GPS monitoring isn't banned
My reasoning: the police already have the clear and reasonable right to surveil cars from a distance either by ground patrol cars or aerial surveillance. That low-tech surveillance, which has never required a warrant, is actually more intrusive than a GPS device, in that it records your actual actions at each location.
I'm not generally opposed to things that allow law enforcement to do a better job with fewer resources.
I don't want to get into the Patriot Act or anything; we're talking about GPS transponders, which is a specific concept we can actually get our heads around. So let's try!
Without a warrant, you open the door to them being used for harassment. For example, by people who have videotaped police brutality and the like can be followed around in ways that would be impractical otherwise. With a warrant, they at least have to justify their use and it would create a paper trail that would document any abuse of power.
I think it's an interesting technology (though the devices are way too conspicuous if anyone goes looking...) and I see no reason to ban them. But I think there's a long enough history of bad apples in the police department abusing things such that we should be very careful about giving out grants of unchecked power. Today it's a GPS. Tomorrow, they might plant cameras or other devices, saying they didn't need a warrant for the GPS, so they shouldn't need one for any other device.
Sure, they've always been able to just tail you with no warrant, but that required more of an investment of their time, which limits how badly (and covertly) it could be abused. With technology removing these limits, the potential for abuses widens, and so it's reasonable to ask them to justify its use.
If a warrant is too burdensome for whatever reason, I could at least be satisfied if someone was required to articulate the reason for its use and submit that paperwork to the courts, without requiring their approval, prior to attaching the device, so that they would have someone watching over their shoulder for abuse without impeding all the legitimate uses of this technology. But I see no reason to grant them unchecked power.
Please don't misinterpret this as implying that all cops can't be trusted or something like that, though. I've known good cops. I lived in a small town and pretty much the whole force looked after us after something terrible happened. But I also know what happens when things go wrong; I've seen the recordings of corrupt cops and the brutality videos. I just think there's a happy medium where we check for abuse without tying the hands of the honest cops who are trying to protect us.
This is a key point. The problem isn't so much that certain things are done under legitimate circumstances, but that they sometimes happen under dubious or plainly immoral circumstances.
Introducing some friction to the process means there's essentially no significant barrier to doing it but it's still not entirely cost-free; there's some overhead involved making it less likely to happen nilly-willy and increasing the changes that improper action will be caught by some oversight.
By all means lets make it harder for the FBI to get access to Internet traffic, or to telephone logs.
But generally, if the FBI believes it has a car it wants to follow, I'd like them to be able to do that as effectively, cheaply, and safely as possible.
Friction can be a good thing, but I don't think we should add it everywhere just for the sake of it. And remember, one consequence of friction is that it wears things down. The court that says "yes" to hundreds or thousands of GPS tagging requests is more likely to say "yes" to the next search warrant request too; we'd have constructed a system where the "yes" corresponds with the base rate.
I don't see that great a difference between my Internet traffic or phone logs and my daily whereabouts (i.e. my travel traffic and my physical location logs).
Good point about the debasing of saying 'yes' to things; it might end up like the permission system in Windows 7 where you get asked for permission for damn near everything to the point one starts clicking "OK" without thinking.
But having zero friction for trailing anyone, anytime, is also a problem.
I think someone else hit the nail on the head elsewhere when they said that they wouldn't be comfortable with their neighbors doing this. I think that's relevant, because it exposes that normal people do see a privacy interest in having someone follow you around, whatever the law may currently say about the existence or non-existence thereof. Maybe it's not a reasonable expectation, but that doesn't seem right to me, even if our privacy is steadily decreasing.
While I freely concede I'm making a "balance" argument and as such there can be reasonable disagreement on where the correct balance is, there is a bound on how far you want to take that. It is not a bad thing that law enforcement takes some effort, as it serves as a sort of natural counter on excessively zealous enforcement, one far more effective than any law or ACLU lawsuit could ever be. The goal isn't to make the police job as easy as possible, the goal is to serve justice.
This makes it easy to keep an eye on a much larger number of people with little increase in manpower, and the problem there is that by increasing the amount of data, while at the same time reducing the quality of the priors on the data that the person (or perhaps rather the vehicle) in question has committed some sort of crime, you will start encountering the classic signal processing problem where you will inevitably start to get more false positives. Requiring a warrant to drop these on somebody's car, and therefore requiring some sort of prior probable cause, isn't just good civil liberties (because those false positives hurt real people), it's good statistics.
Doing "the same thing as before, only more easily" is still an important qualitative change in law enforcement and security in general, and I think you need an argument more powerful than that to justify the change in question.
If you want to talk about things like dragnetting every car on the road through things like OnStar, this is going to be a very boring conversation, because I can't imagine anyone on HN --- myself included --- is comfortable with that idea.
(Even though it's inevitably going to happen, not because law enforcement is grasping, but because technological progress is going to make access to that information the default).
That's why my preferred kind of civil liberty protection relies on bright-line rules. Saying, "it's OK until it starts to feel excessive" is an invitation to law enforcement to go up to, and then beyond, that abusive line – in secret – waiting for some sort of delayed backlash as the only check.
Not to mention co-opting devices like those employed by OnStar. No way to remove that one.
There are places where you can be pulled over for no reason, by default, because everyone is being pulled over. These are usually "sobriety checkpoints", but sometimes they come right out and call them "compliance checkpoints". In some states, they're lawful; in others, their lawfulness is more questionable.
I have a problem with checkpoints. Lots of people do. So there's a bright line: you can pull some people over (you hopefully have a reason, but we accept the notion that nobody has time to make sure and then if you're an officer and abuse that privilege there is a process for disciplining you). You should not be pulled everyone over.
There's a slope, I agree, but I dispute that it is as slippery as you say.
This is the case in Canada, and I don't know anyone who has a problem with it. The police can't pull everyone over and demand that everyone provides a breath sample for alcohol analysis -- but people accept that if you've got 10 police officers stopping cars, it's a heck of a lot safer to stop everybody than to have them jumping into and out of traffic picking out individual cars.
wrt excessively zealous enforcement, it may be the case that more efficient police work improves the situation. Right now, the police have an incentive to arrest somebody even if they aren't sure who to arrest. If technology means they can arrest more real bad guys more easily, there won't be so much pressure to bend the rules.
Is there any guarantee in place that one of them might be attached to an innocent persons vehicle, only to have some budget-desperate bureaucrat decide to datamine his departments last 2 years worth of archived GPS tracking data in search of fineable offenses?
"Your car was detected exceeding the speed limit 63 times on 101 southbound on weekday mornings, and 59 times on 101 northbound on weekday afternoons between 01 Jan 2011 and 31 Mar 2011. We are offering you a one-time opportunity to settle all 122 speeding offences for $45 each, a 75% reduction on the minimum fine amount, if you pay $5,490.00 online by creditcard and waive your rights to appeal by 5pm on Fri 11th Nov. Failure to pay in full by Fri 11th may result in issue of 122 speeding fines @ $180 each resulting in a total fine of $21,960.00. Regards, your local cash-strapped local government area police department."
I would tend to think that investigations are "active" or "not active", have case numbers, have a process for being closed and open probably documented in the police General Orders or whatever the FBI equivalent is, and I think the police should not be able to retain information from vehicle telemetry past the closing of a case unless they are actual format subjects of the investigation, and then only consistent with the existing policies on retaining information.
I DO NOT think it is reasonable to use GPS telemetry to passively fine people for speeding or running red lights.
But often times I think people are too strong in fighting to protect their rights. It's as though reducing/eliminating the _minor_ inconvenience of a false positive is more important than stopping/preventing a false negative.
I'm sorry, but I can't even parse that into anything that makes sense. How could you ever fight too hard to protect your rights?!?? I mean, what could possibly be more important than protecting our innate, individual rights?
Maybe it's just me, but in my world-view, the whole "give me liberty or give me death" thing is not just a tagline. The only reason I can see for not fighting tooth-and-nail to defend your rights at any particular moment in time, is if you're faced with overwhelming force to the point that trying to defend yourself would amount to suicide, and you're willing to exercise discretion and "live to fight another day" when the odds may be more favorable. But that's a strategic decision, not abdication of your rights...
Lots of things. If you are on a lifeboat and are terribly paranoid and aggressive, then the other passengers may be quite justified in tossing you into the water. The existence and general primacy of individual rights does not negate the existence of collective rights; see an overview of these issues going back to Thomas Jefferson at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Constitution_is_not_a_suici...
Previously, their ability to monitor people was limited by physical resources. This technology largely eliminates that constraint and allows them to conduct surveillance in cases where they never would have felt it was worth their time before. For roughly the same amount of work that tailing a suspect traditionally would have required, they can now track everybody he's come in contact with.
So the question is, did we really mean for police to have unlimited surveillance powers, or was it simply never considered before because natural limits always existed? I would argue the latter.
This is similar to how the Second Amendment cannot reasonably be read as allowing individuals to own thermonuclear warheads. That is obviously outside its intended scope, even though a literal reading of "right to bear arms" would appear to allow it.
Should the police be allowed to employ technologies that allow them to monitor every car on the road?
My answer to that is no, but we're technologists, and, be honest: 15 years from now that information is going to be available to the police by default, no matter what we do. But no: I have a problem with the notion of law enforcement dragnetting every single vehicle on the road. It's a power that has been abused with things like roadside sobriety checkpoints, which inevitably turn into revenue-raising boondoggles that inconvenience law-abiding motorists.
Should the police be allowed to employ technologies that allow them to designate specific vehicles in the course of actual investigations and monitor them using telemetry instead of manual patrols?
I say yes. For the same reason I said before: the telemetry is actually less intrusive than the power they already have, and the benefits are common sense: overtaxed investigative agencies can cover more ground more easily, fewer cars are on the road pointlessly following people, &c.
"allow them to designate specific vehicles in the course of actual investigations"
What process do you think they should use to designate a vehicle and access the records? I would think passing the request by a judge and swearing to him that they think there is a reason to track this car is a good way to do it.
I do not care what process is used to determine what cars an actual police officer will walk up to and attach a device to, just like I do not care what process is used to determine which cars an actual police officer will tail in an unmarked car. I care that some process exists, but I don't think it needs to be court ordered.
I think you should consider carefully whether mechanically involving the courts in decisions about collecting information in plain sight of police officers is in your best interests. Search warrants are already often a formality granted in the overwhelming majority of requests. A good way to help condition the court system to say "yes" to every request is to flood them with requests that in virtually every single instance will be be reasonable.
But what use is an unclogged judicial review process to protect our fourth amendment rights if the police already have a green light to conduct unlimited surveillance?
More specifically: what good is judicial oversight when selective reporting of telemetry data can and will inevitably show you crossing paths with persons and locations noted for criminal activity?
Do you really expect the court is going to be familiar with sets of coordinates and realize that they are mere stops at intersections along your commute to work? Or popular shops and restaurants? Will they have any clue that the one time you were at the intersection marked in the warrant filing, that it was because there was an accident along your normal commute and you detoured a couple blocks?
24x7 telemetry data is effectively automatic-probable-cause. Cherry-picking that data is the digital equivalent to two cops playing the "Hey, Bob, do you smell marijuana?" game.
You will have crossed paths with criminals. You will have stopped, shopped, worked, ate or drank in proximity to criminals. You will have associated with people who could be argued to be intermediaries for criminals.
Give me a month's worth of 24x7 telemetry data and I'll give you an arguable criminal narrative.
If they did, I would understand the argument that warrantless telemetry was scary. They'd be using technology to bypass a check/balance that already exists. But they don't. The police can follow you for no reason. They can follow you because they don't like the look of your haircut.
I do not think the police should have 24x7 access to telemetry from all vehicles. I think the process needs to start with, "Subject K of this investigation is known to drive this late motel Honda Civic, and we are now commencing GPS surveillance".
I do worry about the consequences of LEOs cherry-picking from a constant stream of everyone's telemetry data, so that for instance you might get harassed if you lived in nice neighborhood X and drove into bad neighborhood Y for a few minutes, and, whoops, now there's probable cause that you just went and bought drugs. That kind of stuff? Bad! A good reason why we shouldn't be OK with them getting all the OnStar data or whatnot.
But that's simply not what we're talking about here. As long as an LEO has to walk up to a car deliberately and attach a device (which again let's be honest probably costs way too much for them to throw away), I am fine with it.
However, if they can slap a GPS tracker on your car they might just do that.
This technology allows them to cast a MUCH wider net allowing more potentially innocent people to be caught up in it.
What I meant was: having telemetry data makes it trivial for the police to concoct a story that would sail through any judicial review for a warrant. They're already notorious for pulling people over for such sins as Driving-While-Black. Telemetry data would make it very easy for them extend that harassment with search warrants. Not to mention the knowledge that the police can get such a warrant on a whim (and toss your house upside down, impounding your electronics) would be absolutely devastating to the liberty of anyone they feel like harassing.
> "As long as an LEO has to walk up to a car deliberately and attach a device (which again let's be honest probably costs way too much for them to throw away), I am fine with it."
Cost is perhaps the least convincing argument against strict limits and judicial oversight on this behavior. The surveillance state has a clear and unwavering history of constant expansion in legislative authority, budget and implemented scope. And that's more than ably abetted by the constant downward pressure on technological product costs.
Your argument strikes me like saying that the TSA's scope was reasonable on day 1, and we needn't worry about strict limits on its inevitable expansion in invasive-ness and locations 'secured', simply because it would cost too much to expand.
Relying on the price of security state enforcement to protect our liberties is nothing short of shockingly naive.
This seems especially true if the attachment requires concealment via modification to the property, camouflage, tools, or splicing into the existing electrical system. But anything which follows the person onto their own private property and perhaps even into their home garage – as an attached bug necessarily does – has crossed what I see as a bright line between 'surveillance in public' and 'surveillance in private'.
What if this technology was cheap enough to slap one on everybody's car? If you don't need a warrant, why not? Can the feds install a tracker on every car in the USA? It's a lot cheaper than following everyone.
There is a mechanism for targeting specific individuals in the course of an actual investigation. It is getting a warrant.
Where exactly do you draw the line on LEO getting physical with you or your things? Would you mind if they started putting things on the roof of your house? How about in your back yard?
I am guessing that you draw the line wherever it suits you personally, like most people. There are some people who love their cars though. What about them?
If it's not tampering with your car to place a tracking device on it. Is it fine for me to go around looking under bumpers for one to take?
I'd love to get my hands on one, I've got enough EE experience to have some fun.
This is particularly true of smaller police or quasi-police organizations whose professional standards aren't quite up to snuff. For example, the NYS Department of Labor placed a GPS tracking unit on the personal vehicle of an employee suspected of misconduct. They are now facing a big lawsuit.
In the good old days, the police could tail a suspect 24x7, but they would need the clearance to commit staff and overtime to the effort. If a detective goes to his Captain looking to follow around some random kid for weeks, he needs justification.
Today, you need to buy a cheap device and spend a few minutes planting and retrieving it. That minimal expense allows you to track a subject with complete impunity for weeks.
The inevitable result of all of this is going to be widespread abuse. A free society cannot remain so if citizens cannot conduct their affairs without looking over their shoulder (or under their car) at every moment. We need judicial oversight to answer the age-old question: "Who watches the watchmen?"
Why would it be any different than your car? It's not actually on your person, per se, it's on your clothing, which is different. Sure, the resolution of the determined movement is higher, but they could have an agent tail you to the same effect if you left your car.
The line we draw in the sand is somewhat arbitrary, but it has to be there. I'm generally for putting the line further up the slippery slope.
I don't think this is an arbitrary or subtle difference; I think it's night and day. I specifically think that warrantless monitoring of vehicles is reasonable.
Altering or attaching something to it is a violation of personal property rights.
How do you feel about private citizens attaching GPS devices to vehicles without permission? After all, private citizens can also just watch cars...
On the other hand, if you drive your Illinois car around on the freeway in Nebraska with expired Illinois plates, you will be pulled over, and the reason I know that is guess.
Help me understand why a transponder violated the sanctity of your car, but the valid state license plate, issued by the state and required on every vehicle, so as to allow the police to identify your car from a distance despite any individual interest in privacy doesn't. You can't even see the transponders.
I don't like being singled out for special treatment without some judicial oversight. That's the problem with the GPS trackers; the sneakiness of it. If it were done out in the open, then I wouldn't mind.
A sticker or plate is placed on your car with your permission and knowledge. And when you accept it, you know that you are being treated just like all the other drivers.
A transponder is placed on your car (property) without your permission and without your knowledge. You are singled out for special treatment (tracking) by the police.
In the US, except for certain exceptions, searches require a warrant issued by a judge and probable cause. A search is an examination of another's property to look for evidences of a crime.
The biggest exception to the warrant requirement is the "plain view" exception. Police do not need a warrant if evidence of a crime can be seen in "plain view" without trespassing or employing special means to search.
So if you've failed to register your car, police can see this from plain view. They are not required to avert their eyes to not see the missing or expired tags. They don't need special equipment to see the tags. So they don't need a warrant to "search" for failure to register.
On the other hand, placing a tracking device and monitoring it is not within the plain view exception. Police must do considerably more than fail to avert their eyes in order to use the tracking device. They must have targeted a particular car for a search. They must place a transponder on the suspect's property without the suspect's permission (this is a trespass by the way). They must use special equipment to track the transponder. It is not visible or detectable with the unaided senses.
The difference between tracking a suspect with the naked eye versus using a transponder is like the difference between questioning a suspect and observing his reactions and body language versus giving the suspect a lie detection test. Police are not required to get a warrant to pay attention to how a suspect reacts to questions. But as soon as they start monitoring him with special equipment, then they have to get a warrant (or get his permission.)
Plain view is an exception to the warrant requirement, not the other way around. The rule is that police cannot search without a warrant. Plain view is an exception because it makes little sense to require police to ignore obvious signs of crime just because they don't have a warrant. After all, part of their job is investigation. But they have to do their investigation respectful of citizen's rights unless they get special, limited permission from a neutral judge.
(Edited to add the last paragraph.)
But we're not talking about search. We're talking about using technology to capture information in plain view that is explicitly made available to law enforcement.
The differences between GPS transponders and lie detector tests are numerous, including how invasive they are (having devices hooked up to your actual body), the fact that they require detaining you, and the fact that the police have absolutely no business attempting to ascertain your private thoughts, but are explicitly entitled to track your car.
(Lie detector tests are also a psychological ploy; they don't actually do anything.)
You're right and this is the key to the whole problem. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Fourth Amendment does not protect a person against a search unless the search violates a person's "reasonable expectation of privacy."
So the police can search through your garbage, phone records, or bank statements because supposedly you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in those things since you've abandoned/given away your garbage to the trash co, let the phone co know who you want to talk to, and allowed the bank to keep track of your money.
So, the reasoning goes, a search of those things is outside of the Fourth Amendment: it's not even a (4th Amendment) search. Even though every non-lawyer normal person knows that it is. A search is just an attempt to look for something. And people normally do expect privacy in their their garbage, phone records, and bank accounts.
So now government can use dragnet software to continually track everyone's phone calls, bank transactions, internet usage, maybe email (people allow Google to read their mail so that Google can serve up relevant ads), maybe unencrypted wifi communications. No doubt in the future government robots will comb through everyone's garbage at the dump looking for evidence of crime. Next to this, planting tracking transponders on a car doesn't seem like such a big deal.
> If you're placed under arrest for any reason, you can be searched, your person can be searched, any belongings you're holding can be searched, and your immediate vicinity (ie, the passenger compartment of your car) can be searched.
I don't think the search incident to arrest is quite that broad. The police can search you and your immediate area for weapons and evidence that may be lost or destroyed, but, for example, I don't think they could search inside a locked briefcase, sealed letter, laptop, or cell phone (see http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseac...). They also can't search your car for evidence of a crime for which they don't have probable cause if they already have you in handcuffs in their patrol car. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arizona_v._Gant)
> (Lie detector tests are also a psychological ploy; they don't actually do anything.)
Successful passage of a lie detector test has been enough to get prosecutors to drop rape charges in a he-said-she-said case. (I was interning at the public defender's office at the time.)
Thanks for the reply. This discussion helped me to clarify my own thinking.
The same is not true of clothing.
Okay, so why not require a warrant for clear-cut cases like you suggest here? There's a legal mechanism, a historical precedent, a best-practice way of handling this sort of privacy intrusion. What is the compelling reason for throwing all that away?
Do you honestly imagine that a police department that adopts warrant-less GPS trackers will lay off some of the force it no longer needs for stakeouts and surveillance?
This is a more efficient way of doing surveillance, but it isn't something that will be used to "do a better job with fewer resources." It will be used - it is being used - to cast a wider net, to launch larger fishing expeditions, just like every single piece of surveillance technology and surveillance-related legislation in living memory.
I mostly agree, but I think it makes more sense to flip the question: what do we lose by requiring a warrant to attach the device? If it's a valid criminal investigation, it seems like this would be easy to obtain, and having this small hurdle seems like it would help prevent abuse for political or personal agenda.
For me, the difference between attaching a temporary removable device and traditional visual surveillance is that individuals are allowed to monitor the coming and goings of vehicles in public, but are not allowed to trespass to do so. While I might be OK with an agency deciding that a vehicle should be monitored after following a written procedure, I'm not OK with individual officers making this decision without central approval. Or do you think it should be legal for individuals to do attach their own devices?
If requiring warrants lets some criminals slip away, that's too bad. You can only approach 100% police success in a police state.
My point is, there are always competing interests at play, and the question is where we draw the line, and you probably can't draw the line at "a judge has to sign a piece of paper before an LEO can lay a hand on any of your personal property".
IMO, we certainly should draw the line at "a judge has to sign a piece of paper...". Why would you want to give even more power to law enforcement? Do you generally not feel safe enough or do you just not care because it doesn't really affect you in a significant way?
Before you answer that....Are you one of those people who believes that the war on drugs is a good thing? (i.e. It's not basic intellectual fraud...) Or, are you one of those who think that no government would ever attack themselves or their own people; especially not the US Government? Or, that there are terrorists around every corner waiting to get you?
These are clear indicators to me that you've been brainwashed and if you've answered yes to any of those questions, you can feel free to not respond to any of my questions. Also please accept my apology if I've offended you. If not, I'd love to hear your responses.
You're thinking of the Fourth Amendment, which says you're to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. And your problem in this argument is the word "reasonable", which the Supreme Court interprets as "conducted in such a way as to balance the state's legitimate interests with the individuals", meaning, "you are not free from all searches just because you're not a suspect".
And NO, my problem is not with the word reasonable. Your problem is that you want to continue empowering the state to erode your freedom and invade your life.
It has nothing to do with wording. It's all about actions and results.
(EDIT: Anyway, you'd probably get rid of the 2nd amendment too, wouldn't you?)
To that I reply "A policeman's job is only easy in a police state" from Orson Well's "A Touch of Evil"
Watching suspects the hard way, with patrol cars and binoculars, is really expensive for the police department. They're forced by their own internal economies to gather data only on people they're deeply interested in. That, I'd argue, is why it's ok to follow people without a warrant. GPS transponders are much cheaper, so the police have less motivation to focus on only the most important suspects.
I'm saying, good. As long as they can't track everyone (or a significant fraction of everyone), and as long as we're talking about information that was already subject to surveillance (so, for instance, explicitly not talking about where your actual body is walking around inside buildings &c)... this seems like a good thing. LEOs are generally starved for resources. This seems like a common sense win to me.
(a) it's a symptom of a larger problem, and
(b) the larger problem isn't "law enforcement is in the long term just a system for allowing a couple thousand people unlimited access to anal cavity searches on arbitrary citizens".
$10000: Use GPS trackers never, send patrolmen instead. We agree that this is suboptimal.
$500?: Tag more people of interest than you could do on foot, involving some-but-not-many unrelated persons.
$100?: Tag more vehicles, with a concomitant rise in data collection not related to any current investigation.
$1: Tag every vehicle related even tangentially to an investigation, just on principle. This I would not approve of - how about you?
From that I conclude that there's some lower price bound at which the freedom/security tradeoff turns against us. I don't think we're there yet - I don't disapprove of anything reported in the article. But it'll happen eventually, and we should figure out how those laws should work before there's a de facto standard in law enforcement, because that standard will be "use them every time". Police work is terribly hard as it is; any further handicaps that we feel we need to impose must have the force of law behind them.
It's probably not legal though for a private citizen to plant tracking devices on people however.
Instead, what precisely do you find so onerous about requiring a warrant for GPS surveillance? And would you support private citizens using these devices to the same extent?
Anyway, I don't think anyone's reasonably arguing for banning this technology. Requiring a warrant is still going to allow law enforcement to to do a better job with fewer resources; I truly don't see why it would be such a big hassle.
That's actually a pretty cool test to determine if a warrant would be required. I'm NOT OK with private citizens wiretapping phones, but I am OK with law enforcement wiretapping phones if and only if they have a court-issued warrant in order to do so.
the added costs of having a person track a target means more care is taken to avoid false positives. the person doing the tracking can also dis-regard irrelevant data that an automated system might erroneously use.
imagine some program that automatically sifted through a source of ubiquitous GPS data which actually did catch 100% of all terrorist attempts in New York in 2010 (the Times Square bombing attempt). what if that system meant 100 false positives were added to the no-fly-list because they drove on street X on date Y followed by street Z within 2 days (or some other such algorithm) when (if) someone asks about these no-fly-list additions they are simply told that the suspects exhibited behavior that was consistent with the Times Square bomber... if you are not a terrorist, you have nothing to hide!
Excellent point. Professional statisticians make these mistakes all the time. It is widely considered the reason that so much published scientific research is false. If professional statisticians make these errors, then how can we expect the average policeman not to?
The number of people they could surveil with a court order for access to OnStar data is so great that I don't even think they should be able to get court orders for bulk access to OnStar data.
a. If putting a GPS tracker on my car* involves venturing onto my driveway during the night, then you're intruding on the curtilage of my dwelling. The fact that the mail carrier or meter reader is allowed to do so does not mean that I grant the police a free invite onto the easily accessible parts of my property. This is the basic issue that the Supreme Court will take up today.
* not that I actually have a car - a cunning anti-surveillance measure, if I say so myself
b. Even if I park my car on the street, shouldn't the police have to deal with economic scarcity like everyone else, and prioritize whether or not I am worthy of investigation? If technology as a matter of convenience is acceptable grounds for carrying out surveillance, why not require all cars to be fitted with GPS trackers that record their position and can be read out wirelessly by any passing cop who thinks he recognizes your car from a recent tip? If we don't want to force people to buy GPS devices, then why not make such GPS data automatically searchable? Google Latitude records all my movements, should the police have access to that without a warrant for reasons of convenience?
c. In any of these cases, should we mandate that the information be public? After all, if a crime is sufficiently interesting, the media will sue for access to all evidence or to broadcast the court proceedings on first amendment grounds (spurious ones if you ask me; I've soured on TV trials). Since the evidence will become public anyway, what interest does the individual have in keeping it private once the state has decided to inspect it? No jurisprudence says that you have any property interest in your privacy, and it's not hard to construct an argument for any given search being reasonable. I've seen the presence of raindrops on a moving vehicle at 3am offered and accepted as reasonable grounds for a search (which correct intuition helped to catch a murderer fleeing the scene of a crime, as it turned out).
d. If almost any search is reasonable and can become a matter of public record by default, is there not an argument that possession of a GPS device in a car or phone that is deliberately turned off, disabled, or left behind by the user constitutes circumstantial evidence of intent in criminal or even tort cases? As you know, the threshold for establishing intent or knowledge in criminal cases can be quite low if it's not the sole fact in question, and it's lower again in civil litigation. If I can demonstrate a pattern of GPS use on your part that is temporarily interrupted during a period overlapping the commission of a crime that was reasonably accessible from your last recorded location, isn't there a basis for suspecting that you wished to conceal your movements?
e. Even if a warrant is required for me to get hold of your phone records or gain access to the contents of your phone, doesn't the fact that I could snoop your phone use over your shoulder whenever you pull it out in public compromise any expectation of privacy that you have when operating your phone in public? In other words, if I approach you while using your phone and suddenly order you to hand it over for inspection on the grounds that I saw something which appeared suspicious to me on the screen, are you entitled to lock your phone by hitting the power button? After all, your phone was open to the world (in plain view), and that's why I noticed something suspicious about it. Your locking of the device would then seem to constitute interference with a lawful search...
Sure, I'm playing slippery-slope here, but these are all cognizable arguments and I have heard as much and more from various conservatives and police officers over the years. I'm rather conservative myself where jurisprudence is concerned, but GPS tracking strikes me as an active rather than a passive sort of surveillance, not least because it necessarily involves interference with property or person to plant the tracking device.
Without controls preventing these sorts of abuses---and I suspect such controls would be impossible to implement in practice---GPS data would do more harm than good.
(b) What we're dealing with here is the balance of conflicting interests. What I see is a scale, from "every car is tracked" through "many cars are tracked" to "very few cars are tracked" (though, honestly, I think we all know that proportionally very few cars are going to be tracked with manually-attached FBI telemetry devices). What I'm saying, and the answer to your "why?" question here, is that the state's interests at this point on the scale are more compelling than the individual interests.†
(c) Why is the information we're talking about from telemetry devices any different from dash-cam videos from tail cars, or from pen registers monitoring phone lines, or...? I don't see this as germane. The answer? No, I don't think information collected by law enforcement agencies during investigations should be made public.
(d) Here you've lost me completely. Almost any search is reasonable? Strong disagree!, as they say on Wikipedia. I think fewer searches should be reasonable, in any event, but this isn't a "search", any more than the smoldering one-hitter you leave on the empty passenger seat in your car is "searched" when a cop spots it after ticketing you for weaving in between lanes. Is there an argument that disabling GPS telemetry is evidence of criminal intent? Of course not, no more than closing your shades is evidence of criminal intent when the police are surveilling your house, or shredding documents is intent when the police are collecting your trash.
(e) The difference between a phone conversation and the presence of your vehicle on a public street is the difference between an almost total "reasonable expectation of privacy" and an almost nonexistent "reasonable expectation of privacy". I don't know whether you're arguing this point or not; it may be that I have to agree with the premise that "every search is reasonable" to agree with this point.
† Other people on HN will contend that we should make no concessions against individual interests at all, because, America. But we both know that virtually every individual interest we have has been hardened by decades and decades of tests of the state's legitimate interests vs. individual interests, so that for instance the passenger compartment of my car can be searched incident to an arrest but no the trunk &c &c
The warrant process also happens to be agnostic to advances in data harvesting technology (i.e., even if omni-tracking like you speak of below becomes the norm, the use of the data in an investigation or prosecution could still be mediated with warrants).
They don't follow you onto private property, this device can do that.
Also the only reason they put these on cars instead of on a person, say in a briefcase or a watch is b/c miniaturized active tracking tech isn't cheap/available enough--soon enough it will be.
Should any police officer be allowed to view the location records for any vehicle without a warrant? How about view all the records for all vehicles?
I don't understand where you draw the line. You don't think it's necessary for them to get a warrant, but you don't think they should be able to at-will tap into any OnStar system. Those, in my eyes, are virtually the same thing. The standard of "probable cause" has been around for a long time and it is in place because of the language of the Fourth Amendment which protects against "unreasonable" searches and seizures.
* The OnStar device is owned by the motorist, not the police.
* The device is installed on every car. I specifically do not think it's OK for the police to dragnet every car.
* The device is by design difficult, in the long run impossible, to remove; it's built into the car.
You seem fixed on the actual information the police are gaining: whether from OnStar or a portable telemetry device, they get a real time feed of where the car is going. Well, they get the same real-time feed from tailing the car. Tails do not require warrants.
I think that they should.
Slapping a $200 GPS tracker on a car is a hell of a lot cheaper than paying for someone to tail you.
As has been said over and over and over by everyone literally everyone here including me, they clearly shouldn't have access to everyone's telemetry data by default. But $200 (and be honest it's the FBI they're probably paying $5000, but, sure, $200) seems fine to me. "If you are willing to put $200 on the line to do it, you should be able to tail someone from a computer screen instead of an unmarked car". Yes, that works for me.
Wait, what? Last time I looked, there were about 6 million vehicles with OnStar. It's certainly on a lot of new cars, maybe even most, but all? In any case, there's a good argument that reading off the GPS data from such a device wirelessly is less instrusive than physically attaching a device to the vehicle.
I just don't agree that sticking a transponder on my car --- that I'm free to remove if I see it --- is really all that intrusive. It seems less intrusive than them staring through the windows of my car.
If you notice, there is a Democrat in office who hasn't ended this crap, but kept it going in new ways.
But I'm not prepared to lump everything that law enforcement does in with the TSA. One of the biggest problems with the TSA is that they're not a real law enforcement agency; they're lowest-bidder contractors and subcontractors that exist almost entirely for the purpose of making people feel safer, because anything as annoying as the TSA must be making us safer.
Let's be as specific as we can.
Law enforcement throughout the country has another problem: the drug war and the militarization of the police force.
My dispute was that it is "conservatives" pushing this crap and that is far from correct. It is big government types who are in both parties.
>One of the biggest problems with the TSA is that they're not a real law enforcement agency; they're lowest-bidder contractors and subcontractors
You didn't say there are some TSA contractors, you said they are all contractors and subcontractors.
Or can you actually point to an elected official that says, let's END social security, medicare, and farm subsidies, cut the DoD budget by 80% and gut the rest of the federal budget?
I would self identify as a fiscally conservative proponent of free markets and I vote for the Democratic candidate most of the time though I have been leaning to the Libertarian party lately.
Yet Paul’s plan would not return the country to the 1990s, let alone the 19th century. It calls for total outlays of $2.9 trillion in 2015, which is about as much as the federal government spent as recently as 2003, adjusted for inflation. http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/8278110-452/ron-paul...
Counting savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Paul calls for $832 billion in cuts over four years, which would leave the Pentagon’s base budget in 2016 about 2 percent lower than it is now
Now compare that with the perfectly reasonable idea of only spending 300 billion a year vs. 1,200 billion which is still more than any other country in the world. http://dailycaller.com/2011/09/20/weinstein-is-wrong-about-d...
I'm confused - are you claiming that the Tea Party supports all of those things? If so, some cites would be nice. (There is some Tea Party support for ending farm subsidies and possibly "gut the rest" for some definition of "the rest".)
(Then quietly also call the local news service.)
(only half joking)
The security services bugged the HQ of the Communist Party of Great Britain (because the UK doesn't have a bill of rights it's legal to be a commie there). The members found the bug and destroyed it.
They were then prosecuted (succesfully) for destroying government property - even though the government denied planting the bug, and in those days even denied the existence of the security services.
Their case was that the defendants believed it was government property and therefore their intent was to destroy government property.
So if you have a reason to be tracked by the police then it would be a crime to destroy it. But if you have no reason to believe you have done anything wrong then it's more reasonable to believe it's a terrorist bomb and you should call the FBI/DHS/Army etc
If you call the bomb squad to report a bomb under your car but as a technology-inclined person/geek know full well it's a GPS receiver then you're committing all sorts of illegality there.
If you think that it's FBI/DHS device (ie if your skin color is between latte and espresso, or your name as an 'Al' at the front) then call local law.
Back when I worked for a defense company our cars were checked with mirrors on sticks everytime we went to work, we had special police numbers to call if we ever saw any suspicious activity around our cars or received a suspicious package at home.
Although they weren't very understanding when I was away on a trip and my wife opened a package containing a microcontroller I ordered - and started an alert!
Well, the GPS thing might be up for debate, but tinted front side windows are illegal in CA. :-)