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Is your cell phone really your best friend?

I understand that many people have a love/ hate relationship with their GPS. It can be a godsend for the directionally-challenged, but it can be an endless source of frustration when it loses its signal or only gets you in the general vicinity of your destination. (I’ll admit I’ve experienced mostly the latter, as recipients of my frantic emergency calls can attest.)

It looks like our legal system is going to have a similar relationship with the technology; the Supreme Court ruled Monday the use of a GPS device to track a suspect’s behavior and location qualifies as a search under the Fourth Amendment.

However, the justices left it an open question as to whether it’s an invasion of privacy to use GPS devices to track people through a device that comes installed with a GPS, such as a cell phone. The justices hinted that they might have to modify their ruling if GPS devices were used in this manner in order to protect privacy rights.

I know phone records can be subpoenaed in cases and these records can also show the location of the calls, or at least what tower the cell phone call is routed through. But it’s interesting to think that law enforcement could have the capability to monitor your every move through the GPS device on your phone.

Considering that it’s a virtual necessity, if only for safety reasons, for adults to carry a cell phone, this means just about anyone’s location could be tracked at anytime.

Even red-light and speeding cameras are held by some as compromising our right to privacy. Many states (not including Maryland) require these cameras to capture the driver’s face and therefore can be used to place a suspect in a particular place at a particular time. Even the cameras in Maryland that only capture pictures of license plates can be used to implicate where a suspect was, when he was there and where he was going.

Also, there is always a question about the reliability of the equipment, which has already been questioned in red-light camera cases. And, as an owner of a GPS device, I’ve got to believe reliability is going to become an issue in these GPS cases. (I mean how can you lose a satellite signal on I-95?)

There are many issues left to be dealt with in these cases, such as how private citizens can use technology against law enforcement. We recently saw, for example, citizens have the right to tape police in traffic stops. I’m excited to see what other creative ways people will begin to use technology to protect their individual rights against law enforcement.

What do you think of the court’s ruling? What issues do you think these types of cases willraise and what will be the big issues in the future?