May 10, 2011, 12:42 PM — Right in the middle of the controversy over whether easily concealable GPS devices let federal law enforcement agencies negate the Fourth Amendment at the discretion of individual agents, the tech press has stepped up to show you what the police or FBI would like you to carry for it, and how to hack the thing if you find one.
In mid-April the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that police aren't allowed to put a GPS in your car to track your movements without either telling you or getting a warrant.
Pesky, I know, but pretty clearly covered by the don't-illegally-search-and-seize portion of the Fourth Amendment, though the TSA apparently gets a pass on the part that requires probable cause before security staffs can grope around to discover whether there's something dangerous in your pocket or if you're just happy to be there.
The Justice Dept. asked the Supreme Court to reconsider the case, which it contends would make it illegal for a police car to cruise behind your car for too long – even by coincidence -- lest it be thought to be following you.
Appeals Court Judge Douglas Ginsberg certainly doesn't hold it. Following someone persistently – especially when you do it using a planted bug so you can see their whereabouts all the time is not at all the same as just cruising in close proximity to someone, or even to following them purposely for a day or two.
"It is one thing for a passerby to observe or even follow someone during a single journey," Ginsburg wrote in his decision."It is another thing for a stranger to [dog] his prey until he has identified all the places, people, amusements, and chores that make up that person‘s hitherto private routine."
The Obama administration also asked the court to look at the question, not because it's for or against GPS tracking, apparently, but because the decision as it stands is too vague.
U.S.-born college student Yasir Afifi is suing the FBI for putting a GPS on his car to track him because some investigators were suspicious about his ethnic and political background.